3-D printing set to break out of niche

Jan 11 2014, 9:16am CST | by

3-D printing set to break out of niche, into mouths (candy) and onto fingers (diamond rings)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Some of the oddest items on display this week at International CES gadget show were edible, origami-like sculptures made of sugar, their shapes so convoluted as to baffle the eye.

The treats are one of many signs that we'll all be getting a taste of 3-D printing soon —and the phenomenon won't be relegated to the realm of engineers and tech enthusiasts.

The sugar sculptures are the output of the ChefJet Pro, the first commercial, kitchen-ready food printer. It looks like an oven, and deposits sugar layer by layer in a tray, then melts the parts intended for the sculpture with water so they solidify much like sugar in a bowl will harden with moisture.

Ink can be selectively added to the water so the sculptures come out in full color — a feature sure to set the minds of wedding and party planners spinning. Next to the geometric sculptures was a wedding cake supported by a delicate lattice-work tower of sugar that would be nearly impossible to make by conventional means.

Oh, and the printer can print in chocolate too.

3D Systems Inc., a Rock Hill, S.C., company, expects to sell the full-color printer for about $100,000 in the latter half of this year, and a monochrome version for half that price.

Last year, there were only a handful of 3-D printing companies at the gadget show. This year, there were thirty, and the organizers had to turn others away because they couldn't fit them in. The 3-D printing area of the show floor drew dense crowds that gawked at the printers and their creations, which ranged from toys to tea cups to iPhone cases.

Melissa Spencer, a jewelry designer from Los Angeles, was at the show to look for a printer. 3-D printers have been used in jewelry-making for a long time, but high prices and poor resolution have limited their use. With prices down and output quality up, it's now possible for an independent designer to buy her own printer, Spencer said.

The printers focus bright ultraviolet light into liquid resin, setting it. That takes time. One printer maker cited 7 hours for a batch of five rings. The plastic pieces are then used to create molds for molten silver, gold or platinum.

Spencer is now toying with the idea of abandoning the reuse of molds, and instead using the power of a 3-D printer to make every piece a one-off, unique design, customized to the buyer. It helps that she can show the plastic prototypes to the customer before casting.

With 3-D printing, "we're moving to a world of mass customization," said Shawn Dubravac, an analyst for the Consumer Electronics Association, which puts on the show. What started with custom-printed t-shirts a la CafePress can now happen in all kinds of industries, he added. It's still a small field, though. He expects that just under 100,000 3-D printers will be sold in 2014.

One jewelry company was at CES to demonstrate how it has taken the capabilities of the 3-D printer and made them the core of its business. American Pearl, a family-owned company founded in 1950, in November revamped its website to allow shoppers to order custom jewelry. From about 1,000 basic designs, the buyers can change metals and stones and order engravings and they can see the results rendered in 3-D on their computer screens. The company prints the orders in 3-D in its factory in New York.

The approach lets the company keep prices low while satisfying customer's demands for unique pieces, said American Pearl president Eddie Bakhash. "If you saw the backend of our system, you'd see that every order coming in is different."

The mass customization capability is useful in unexpected fields. Bre Pettis, the CEO of New York-based printer manufacturer MakerBot, is proud that a customer, a South African carpenter who had lost four fingers in an accident, figured out how to use a printer to make a mechanical hand for himself. He distributed the blueprints to other MakerBot users, who can tweak them to fit.

"Normally, prosthetics cost tens of thousands of dollars, but with the MakerBot, they cost five dollars in materials," Pettis said.

MakerBot unveiled new models at the show, including its biggest one yet, which is the size of a mini-fridge, costs $6,499 and can print objects the size of a human head. It also launched a smaller version, the Replicator Mini, which can create cupcake-sized objects. It will cost $1,375 when it launches this spring.

MakerBot will be undersold, however, by XYZprinting Inc. of Taiwan, which plans to sell its Da Vinci printer starting in March in the U.S. for $499. That's a price that's bound to attract a lot of people who would never have imagined, a year ago, that they'd have a 3-D printer in the house.

The MakerBot and Da Vinci printers take rolls of plastic wire and melt them, piece by piece, depositing tiny dots to create objects. The resulting pieces can be light and strong, but their surfaces show a characteristic banded texture and the resolution is limited; the overall impression is crude. The light-curing models used by jewelers and engineers produce smooth objects with fine detail, but they've been out of reach of consumers and tinkerers until now.

The show provided hope on that front, however: XFab, an Italian company that's made professional 3-D printers for a decade, demonstrated a $5,000 laser-powered model at the show, and said it is looking at launching a smaller, $2,500 model later this year. That's roughly the price of the standard MakerBot, which has been the vanguard of the consumer 3-D printing movement so far.

Elsewhere at the show, there was a "technology fashion" show that featured 3-D-printed shoes and a bag with appliques created on a consumer-level, computer-controlled cloth cutter, the Brother ScanNCut.

"The question in my mind is not 'Will we have a 3-D printer in each home?' but 'Which room will it be in?'" said Avi Reichental, the CEO of 3D Systems. "Will it be in your garage? Will it be in your kids' room, or the man cave ... Or the wardrobe?"

Source: AP Business

 
 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/31" rel="author">Associated Press</a>
The Associated Press (AP) is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering, supplying a steady stream of news to its members, international subscribers and commercial customers.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

Finnish scientists identify new type of black hole
Helsinki, Oct 31 (IANS) Finnish researchers have discovered a new type of low-mass black hole, which is a bright celestial body that emits X-ray, the University of Turku has said.
 
 
Union Carbide ex-chief Warren Anderson is dead
Washington, Oct 31 (IANS) Warren Anderson, former chief executive officer of the Union Carbide Corporation, is dead, a media report said Friday. He was 92.
 
 
Himalayan Viagra fuels gold rush for local Tibetans
Washington, Oct 31 (IANS) Overwhelmed by people trying to find the prized medicinal fungus known as Himalayan Viagra, two isolated Tibetan communities have managed to implement a successful system for the sustainable harvest of the precious natural resource, suggests research.
 
 
Oceans were always there on Earth: Scientists
Washington, Oct 31 (IANS) Debunking previous theories that water came late to Earth well after the planet had formed, researchers have significantly moved back the clock for the first evidence of water on Earth and in the inner solar system.
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Finnish scientists identify new type of black hole
Helsinki, Oct 31 (IANS) Finnish researchers have discovered a new type of low-mass black hole, which is a bright celestial body that emits X-ray, the University of Turku has said. Researchers at the Finnish university...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Union Carbide ex-chief Warren Anderson is dead
Washington, Oct 31 (IANS) Warren Anderson, former chief executive officer of the Union Carbide Corporation, is dead, a media report said Friday. He was 92. His death revived memories of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy. He...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Himalayan Viagra fuels gold rush for local Tibetans
Washington, Oct 31 (IANS) Overwhelmed by people trying to find the prized medicinal fungus known as Himalayan Viagra, two isolated Tibetan communities have managed to implement a successful system for the sustainable...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Oceans were always there on Earth: Scientists
Washington, Oct 31 (IANS) Debunking previous theories that water came late to Earth well after the planet had formed, researchers have significantly moved back the clock for the first evidence of water on Earth and in...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Wearable health devices key for safe space tourism
New York, Oct 31 (IANS) At a time when several firms are developing spacecrafts to take ordinary citizens on short trips into space, scientists have outlined the risks and challenges involved in human commercial...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Early Walmart Cyber Monday 2014 Sale and Holiday 2014 Sale announced
Walmart has revealed their first Holiday 2014 sales details. Starting Saturday Walmart will offer over 20,000 rollback deals. New this year are early Walmart Cyber Monday 2014 sales starting midnight on walmart.com.On...
Read more on Black Friday Countdown
 
Nestle to introduce robots as sales clerks
Tokyo, Oct 31 (IANS/EFE) Nestle will use robots as sales clerks at its outlets selling coffee makers in Japan, an initiative that will later spread worldwide, a Nestle spokesperson confirmed to EFE news agency....
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Healthy diet for infants prevents obesity later
New York, Oct 31 (IANS) If you do not want your baby to grow up into an overweight adult, make sure you feed him or her healthy diet from the very first year, a study suggests. Babies who eat diets high in sugar, fat...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Popular mosquito catcher in Japan uses human odour as bait
Tokyo, Oct 31 (IANS) A novel mosquito trap that lures its prey using human scent and other smells favoured by the critter is creating a buzz as Japan frets about the spread of dengue fever. The boxlike device is the...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Antarctic ozone hole stands steady: Scientists
Washington, Oct 31 (IANS) The Antarctic ozone hole has reached its annual peak size and holds steady, say scientists, trying to determine if the ozone hole trend over the last decade is a result of temperature...
Read more on Business Balla