3D printing changing key questions around weapon systems acquisitions

The Marine Corps’ use of additive manufacturing will change questions surrounding acquisitions to reflect the technology’s ability to sustain weapon systems, according to a service official. Additive manufacturing will “aid in that sustainment, particularly as weapon systems get older and . . . there’s less incentive for industry to even make the parts anymore,” Col. Howard Marotto, additive manufacturing lead for the Next Generation Logistics cell, told Inside the Navy in an Oct. 4 interview at the Pentagon. “If we…

5 questions to ask before you start 3D printing

Want to get into 3D printing? It’s an exciting and evolving field for sure, but can also be an expensive one. Here are 5 questions every designer should ask themselves before taking the plunge…

01. How much money should I spend?

Not all 3D printers cost the same

First, consider what the printer’s main purpose will be. If you’ll be using it for an artistic venture, you should opt for a capable budget printer. However, if you want to create professional prototypes, to show clients and moving parts, think about investing a little more on a printer with a wider range of features and higher print quality. Check out these articles:

02. Will I be making moving parts?

Different products require different levels of 3D printing sophistication

This might seem like a strange question, but different 3D printers have different limitations, so you need to ensure it can do the job you require it to. For example, in some more complex models or parts, overhangs may not be able to be printed, or layer delamination may cause parts to break in certain machines.

03. Should I use a 3D print service?

Using a 3D print service takes a huge chunk of work out of the equation

If your budget or storage space doesn’t allow for your own personal 3D printer, then fear not, you’re still able to print using a dedicated 3D printing service, such as Shapeways. This might be a better option for you as you can turn your ideas from digital designs into real products from your desktop and have them shipped to your door.

04. What material should I use?

3D printers tend to use plastic filaments. The most common consumables used by 3D printers using the FDM (fused deposition modelling) technology are ABS, PLA and PVA – all of which are used in a large variety of applications in the industry and come in a number of colours, diameters and lengths. Before you buy, check the materials options. Start with our easy guide to 3D printing materials.

05. What software do I need?

Lots of software companies are vying for the 3D printing market, so it pays to shop around

If you’re just getting started, there are a number of 3D modelling software options available that can be downloaded for free. SketchUp is fun and free and known for being easy to use. Blender is also a good free option, as are basic apps like SculptGL and OpenSCAD – this software application creates solid 3D CAD objects using OpenCSG.

This article was originally published in 3D World issue 190.

Like this? Read these…

Five Questions for a San Diego Startup: ROBO 3D

ROBO 3D staff with the R1 printer and the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Photo courtesy ROBO 3DROBO 3D staff with the R1 printer and the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Photo courtesy ROBO 3D

At the reception following Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s State of the City speech last week, political and business leaders gathered around a buzzing 3D printer. The inexpensive printer is the product of a two-year-old San Diego startup, ROBO 3D. The company is targeting tech-savvy early-adopters in the exploding 3D printer market with an easy-to-use desktop device. Times of San Diego spoke with CEO Braydon Moreno about the company and the potential for this new technology.

Why did you start ROBO 3D?

ROBO 3D was spawned from the idea that we could create opportunities for people with a 3D printing machine. We knew the power of the technology to allow people to create and make complex objects with the click of a button.

We also knew that 3D file content was exploding online, which meant that the use of these machines would become more prevalent. There is a massive open-source community building incredible 3D files and sharing them with the public to download for free. This is creating a big market for 3D printers.

Braydon MorenoBraydon Moreno

There are a lot of 3D printers on the market now. How does ROBO 3D’s product stand out?

ROBO 3D is unique in many ways. From a brand/design perspective, I think we have done very well in setting ourselves apart. No other machine looks and feels like a ROBO 3D Printer and that was an important goal. We also incorporated a ton of great features into a single, affordable, quality machine. We have one of the largest build volumes among personal 3D printers; we are able to print with over 20 materials; our precision is comparable to machines in the $2000-plus range; and our product is simple and overall…cool. That is what we set out to make — a good looking, high value, affordable 3D printer that would give us the opportunity to share this technology with everyone.

How would you describe your target customer?

Doing marketing research and surveying our own customer base, we have found that the majority of users are young: typically 21 to 29 years of age with the 30 to 35 group coming in a close second. The user base is still very tech-oriented, innovators and early-adopters. I think there is a shift occurring right now that will bring in mass-market consumers looking to create things at home. There is a website called thingiverse.com which has over half a million free files that people can browse, download, and print, so it is making 3D printing more practical.

At $799, your R1 printer is undercutting some well-known names like Dremel. How are you able to do that?

We took a lot of the unnecessary bells and whistles out of the R1 machine. It is very simple, easy to use, and therefore more affordable than the competition. We also made some significant changes to the dynamics of the linear-motion systems to save cost. All this was part of a deliberate strategy to bring the price down and get this technology into the hands of more users.

We currently are working on a beefed-up version of the machine with a full-color touch screen and other new components, including twin print heads. This will allow people to fuse different materials together in one print as well as quick print from the touch screen.

What’s the future for 3D printing and how do you see ROBO 3D creating that future?

The future of 3D printing is the democratization of craftsmanship. It will allow anyone to build something from scratch without the skills that traditional manufacturing demands. Build a digital file, load any material into a 3D printer, and in a matter of hours out comes a tangible product. It is pretty incredible stuff. ROBO 3D is poised to be a big player in this industry, allowing the mass-market consumer the ability to 3D print anything from the comfort of home.

I think 3D printing will also revolutionize online shopping. Instead of purchasing items and waiting for them to be processed and shipped, there will be a massive database of products that you can purchase, download the printer file, and 3D print at home.

Replacement parts will be another big industry. Why fill warehouses with parts in inventory when you can have a digital inventory in the cloud for quick downloading and 3D printing.

And at the other end of the spectrum, there is biological 3D printing. Instead of depositing plastic, you can deposit cells and create organs and tissues. There are some extremely innovative companies working on this.

Times of San Diego, a startup itself, regularly writes about startups in technology, biotech and other sectors of local business. If you are a startup in the San Diego area and want to tell your story, please contact news@timesofsandiego.com.