Last Friday I travelled down to the BDC in Islington for the 3D Print Show 2013… A fairly small show, but certainly worth the visit.
There were a number of different machines to look at, and some great ideas on display, with my exhibition hat on, it has to be said, none of the stands were overly impressive, but it was more about showing off the technology.
So to the machines, there were a number of different things on show, I’m obviously going to be looking to invest at the lower end of the market, MakerBot and Ultimaker seemed to be attracting the bulk of the traffic, hardly surprising being 2 of the more popular machines on the market. Both use PLA, a corn starch based plastic to, the advantage of using PLA is it is significantly easier to print than the more traditional ABS, removing the need to enclose the print head (this is basically done to reduce shrinkage). The machines are operated by taking an STL file on an SD card to the machine and simply pressing print, there are obviously limitations to both machines, but for the applications I am thinking of, I think both would be a perfect fit. Density, resolution and wall thickness can all be controlled, giving the ability to produce models at different qualities, once printed models can even be sanded and painted.
There were some truly amazing examples of 3d print, with Legacy Effects showcasing some of their work that has been used in films such as Ironman and Avatar, along with turtles used in the making of the FedEx adverts (in the states). The picture used in the header to this article was used in an Advert for the Xbox game Ryse – All of the Armour seen was first modelled, then 3d printed, then painted to a realistic finish.
Colorfabb were showing some really interesting PLA materials that contain a percentage of wood, giving a really nice looks and feel to printed 3D models. They also have some really nice looking standard materials. BQ Witbox had some really great examples of what’s possible, with lots of helix’s and printed components on show. Concept laser had the only working metal printer at the exhibition, though at £150,000 for the entry level model, perhaps that’s a little out of Pinnacle’s budget for its first foray into 3D printing. The potential for a machine like this though is frankly unbelievable, one of their machines is already being used by a jeweller as it prints gold and silver and he can manufacture earrings for £1 that retail at £80-£90, it wouldn’t take long for the machine to repay itself in that situation, but I’m no jeweller! In fact over the weekend there was another example of a printed gun, this time printed from metal components…
BeeVeryCreative seems to be the first particularly attractive looking 3d printer on the market, it’s got great styling but I must admit with that and the Omni3d printers my only concern is that with the moving platform and the still head there might be more to go wrong, but perhaps that’s just me and my conventional thinking!
After visiting the show I feel particularly strongly that this is something I need to be involved in, with a little more research into both the machines and the potential applications I’m sure I’ll be investing shortly. Watch this space, you’ll be the first ones to know when I have made a decision about which machine I’m going to invest in and why!