Skip navigation

edison 3d printer.jpg

Thomas Edison’s cast concrete house. (via archive photo & fm)

Earlier this year a scientists at the University of Southern California announced that they have developed a 3D printing system of sorts that could potentially build a multi-story house in just under a day. Their system is known as ‘contour crafting’ (additive printing), which makes use of a massive computer-controlled gantry hung from a crane to build structures from the bottom up. The printer actually sits on a pair of rails for movement while the materials are fed from the top of the contraption, which builds the structure layer by layer until its completion. While none of the proposed 3D printing techniques has yet to actually build a 3D printed structure, famed inventor Thomas Edison may have actually accomplished it over a hundred years ago.

Widely known for his development of the incandescent light bulb, phonograph and the first motion picture camera, Edison also had a host of flops that were born out of interesting ideas that didn’t make the grade. Most of those failures are relatively unknown, such as his electrographic vote-recorder (rejected by congress because it would increase the speed of voting), the pneumatic stencil pen (meant to copy documents but was adopted for use as a tattoo gun) and the magnetic iron ore separator, which would lead to single-piece cast concrete house. Considered to be one of his biggest financial failures, Edison’s ore separation machine was designed to use magnets to separate the ore from sand, making it possible to extract more ore from once defunct mines. The motto of the day was ‘waste not, want not’ and all that byproduct sand had to go somewhere, so Edison decided to create a concrete company (Edison Portland Cement Company, located in New Jersey?) with, what he thought, would be an unending supply of raw materials.

What to do with all that concrete was something Edison had pondered - ah-ha, why not use it to build multi-storied houses on the cheap, casting them as a single-piece structure using concrete molds! Why stop there, he thought, we can even use the concrete to build furniture, bathtubs and even picture frames using the material and they will last forever! Edison succeeded in selling the idea to qualified builders and a few concrete abodes were actually constructed and are surprisingly still in use today. Technically, they were constructed using a primitive form of additive printing, using a mold that was comprised of roughly 2,300 separate pieces. Once the mold was erected, the concrete was transported up the side of the structure using an elevator, where it would then be poured by trough into the mold. This process was done on all four sides of the structure until it was completed. Once dry, the mold was then broken down, leaving behind a complete concrete house (not sure how they incorporated the plumbing or wiring). Not surprisingly, those houses were prone to leaks and other problems that were hard to be repaired, which was the beginning of the end for the concrete housing boom.

Not soon after, the great depression hit, to which Edison’s concrete company became one of the many casualties to fall victim to but not before building the original Yankee Stadium. Still, he technically did 3D print his own garage and a few houses, which none have yet to accomplish in this century (yes, casting and pre-casting still exist but not used to build a single structure).


See more news at:

We are looking for a 3d Printer for our school.


We need one that will be able to cope with the workload and one with ready made resources for UK Education.


Any Ideas?

At the moment, 3D printing is the hottest topic in the tech world, but over the last few weeks, 3D printed food has seemed to take front stage with announcements from 3D Systems and Hershey.  The topic of 3D printed food is so big in fact that NASA is even testing the technology to see how they can utilize it in space travel and on the International Space Station.  At CES this year I saw several companies showing off 3D printers designed around sugar-based fabrication, but this technology is not as new as everyone would have you believe.




As early as 2007, projects like CandyFab were popping up on the internet. Granted, many of these projects failed or never really took off into anything more than a dream, but CandyFab did succeed in creating a machine that would print out three dimensional objects using molten sugar. Around this time the RepRap project was just beginning to take off and Bre Pettis founded Makerbot. When Makerbot released its first 3D printer, the CupCake, you could purchase a frosting extruder that could be used to frost cupcakes. While the actual practice never really took off due to a buggy design, it did prove that there was a market and viable solution for 3D printed edibles.




The hard truth is that the concept of “3D printed” food has been around for decades now, and those who say that extrusion technology will revolutionize the food industry are not as well-versed in the concept as they would have you believe. Manufacturers have been using extrusion methods for years to create everything from cookies to McNuggets, and food manufacturers are coming up with new ways to turn mushy food paste into something that resembles it’s pre-ground up form every day. At the moment, 3D printed food is simply not practical in environments other than the industrial space or niche kitchens that serve up expensive and artsy creations.




Take the ChefJet line from 3D Systems, their first model uses water and powdered sugar to form a 3D object. The water is sprayed over a layer of sugar through a simple inkjet cartridge, and then another layer of sugar is added. This process is repeated may times over in much the same way powdered plastic and resin is used to print large objects on printers such as those made by Shapeways. There is no doubt that the results are simply stunning, and when their larger CMYK colored version is released things will get much more interesting. With the colorless ChefJet costing upwards of $5000 and its colored counterpart being close to $10,000, 3D printed food is simply too expensive for it to enter the home market and become a mainstream item found in every kitchen. 


I feel that the big kicker will be Hershey’s 3D Printer that it is designing in conjunction with 3D Systems. If the chocolate company can manage to convince 3DSystems to keep the cost down, then I see this taking off and ending up in every bakery and restaurant as well as many homes in America .  "Whether it is creating a whole new form of candy or developing a new way to produce it, we embrace new technologies such as 3-D printing as a way to keep moving our timeless confectionery treats into the future," said William Papa, Hershey's vice president and chief research and development officer. "We fully intend for this to come to the consumer as well," he added when asked about the consumer market and 3D printed chocolate. As someone who has spent a lot of time writing about both 3D printing and consumer electronics, I feel that Hershey and 3D Systems will need to bring the cost of the printer down to the $1200-$1800 range before mass adoption will begin to take place.



Other 3D Printing companies are beginning to take notice as well and are working on several sugar and chocolate based 3D printers as well, which should work at driving the price down to something more affordable, but I still feel that the technology is still a few years out before things get really cheap. At the moment you can pick up a small 3D plastic printer for about $400, but the cheapest 3D Food printer I was able to find online still runs $4000 and is still in the alpha design phase.



Do not take my apprehension for early adoption of 3D food printers as hostility towards the industry segment though, as I really do hope these printers become mainstream in the next few years. I have already begun a savings account for the Hershey printer and hope to have one shortly after it hits the market. I simply wish to inform everyone that the market is not anywhere near it’s prime yet, and we still have years to go before the technology really catches up with the concept.  With NASA, 3D Systems, and the Open Source Community all working towards taking 3D printing food to the next level, things will begin to develop rapidly, and as processes become more refined and efficient, we will begin to see 3D food printers enter the market at prices that rival many smartphones.

Hello world, I have been on this site for quite a while, but never used it, so here is my first post.


I just received my 3D printer, a Printrbot Jr (V2) from Printrbot on Tuesday 4th February 2014. The good news is that it all appears to be here and in good condition, the bad news is that it is a kit and I had to build it, which isn't fun when you have arthritis.

I painted the Plywood parts machine shop orange mostly to protect them from warping if it gets damp. Assembly has taken place over the past 3 days and I am now at the stage where I am about to plug it in and calibrate it. (It is hard to type with your fingers crossed). The PSU has fired up with no bangs (I made sure the Voltage was set to 230V as it was shipped from the US.) I must admit I am a bit scared to plug in the printer, it all seems so McGyver built, but I followed the instructions to the letter. Unfortunately the instructions seem to contradict themselves at times. That and the fact that I ordered the new aluminium extruder kit and have installed it trying to follow the instructions which shows the procedures for every other Printrbot printer except this one.


The last photo is of the temporary Y-axis tensioner that I made out of scraps from the project. The kit doesn't have a y axis tensioner, but strangely does have an x-axis tensioner. I will eventually print a better one once I get it all calibrated and working.


Ah well, here goes. If you hear a loud BOOM and see a mushroom cloud over Adelaide it means I must have got something wrong.


More to come...I hope :-)


Photoshop setting for the 3D model. (via ADOBE)

Adobe made an exciting announcement recently – its updated Photoshop CC software not only includes features such as Perspective Warp and Smart Object capabilities, but it also has 3D printing capabilities which give users the ability to print quality models from the comfort of their own homes.


Photoshop CC features printing capabilities that allow the user to build, refine, review, prep and print 3D designs with the confidence that the final product will be high quality. The software includes tools like automated mesh repair, support structure generation, scaffolding and automatic verification of watertightness to ensure the 3D prints come out perfect every time.


Currently, Photoshop CC has built-in capabilities for four types of 3D desktop printers and Shapeways online community with capabilities to products prints in full color sandstone, ceramic and metal. Creative professionals, architects, animation experts, engineers and more can print their designs directly from home using the 3D Systems Cube, MakerBot Replicator 2, Zcorp Full Color and MakerBot Replicator 2x printers. Users are also able to double-check the accuracy of their virtual models using Shapeways or Sketchfab before printing to ensure accuracy. Adobe announced plans to expand its software to support the most popular 3D printers in the near future.

The updated Photoshop CC also comes equipped with updates that are not 3D printing-related, including Perspective Warp, which allows the user to change the viewpoint from which one can see a particular object. The new software also links to Smart Objects to enhance overall collaboration. All new features and tools are available free-of-charge to Creative Cloud subscribers.


The new technology seeks to help creative professionals gain access to 3D printing capabilities in an affordable and convenient way.



See more news at:

Filter Blog

By date: By tag: