Oct 27, 2011
Comments Off on 3D printing community aim to rehouse homeless hermit crabs.

3D printing community aim to rehouse homeless hermit crabs.

3D Printed shells for hermit crabs
3D printing could rehouse homeless hermit crabs.

While the heading of this post may appear strange the creative minds at MakerBot Industries, manufacturers of do it yourself 3D printers, have devised a plan to tackle the growing threat to hermit crabs, the man-made housing shortage that threatens the entire species. The project known as Project Shelltor intends to utilize the Makerbot community’s design skills to design and produce shells for hermit crabs.

Hermit crabs are born shell-less, therefore they must scavenge for suitable housing – usually a shell which will protect them from predators and provide suitable space for growth. Each spring a growth spurt causes them to abandon their home and once again begin the search for suitable housing, but a severe shortage of shells has forced hermit crabs to fight over inadequate housing such as bottle caps, aluminium cans and other bits of trash.

Lead by Miles Lightwood, the “Shelltor project” challenges designers to create “crabitats”, shells created using a right handed helix that will accommodate the natural curve of hermit crabs bodies. While commentators have questioned the safety of this project, Makerbot insist that no shells have be placed into the wild (shells are intended for domestic use only, to avoid environmental implications from putting plastic into the sea) and a suitable non toxic material will need to be sourced to prevent the hermit crabs ingesting potentially dangerous materials (hermit crabs do ingest bits of the shell now and then).

While it remains to be seen if hermit crabs will even consider a 3D-printed shell as a suitable home, the Shelltor project is indicative of novel and helpful uses for 3D printing

Oct 21, 2011
Comments Off on Worlds first 3D printed car on display in Canada

Worlds first 3D printed car on display in Canada

3D printed car - Urbee

Made to last the Urbee's body panels were printed using additive manufacturing technology.

Following 15  years of development, the worlds  first 3d printed car, Urbee has made its debut in Canada. Only one prototype model exists to date but developers at Kor Kor Ecologic are hopeful that commercial manufacturing will begin by 2014.

Built to last 30 years the Urbee, is one of the worlds most environmentally friendly cars running solely on renewable energy. Designed to achieve maximum efficiency with minimum input, the Urbee can achieve up to 200mpg on the motorway and reaches speeds of up to 70mpg on a mere 8 horsepower single cylinder engine. Underneath the cars unique body lies a steel chassis, which houses a petrol and electric hybrid engine. The car batteries can also draw charge from optional solar panels.

The Eco credentials of the Urbee don’t stop there, with the cars entire body panels produced using a 3D printer! According to project leader Jim Kor, the use of additive manufacturing eliminates waste, only placing material where it is needed, with the ultimate goal of Kor Kor Ecologic to use fully recycled-materials for commercial production.

It is also anticipated that the firm will produce a number of other parts using this additive manufacturing technology. This Kor Kor Ecologic claim will make it easier to repair the car, as parts can be printed at a local 3d printing facility.

With extremely low fuel consumption and an estimated price tag of £10,000 – £33,000 the Urbee could revolutionise the automotive industry, but with the second prototype still to be developed and an estimated development cost of £610,00 the team at Kor Kor Ecologic still have a few challenges ahead.

Oct 14, 2011
Comments Off on 3D printing now with criminal intent

3D printing now with criminal intent

With general awareness of 3D printing on the increase, new applications for this technology appear to emerge almost on a weekly basis. We have seen 3D printing morph from a chocolate printer to a device with the potential to print human tissue and with this technology still in its infancy rumours circle that similar to the Internet, 3d printing will make its way into our homes becoming something taken for granted, a part of everyday life.

Despite this early promise, little did I expect to come across a story of how an ATM skimmer gang used 3D printers to steal over $400,000 but then again being the enterprising businessmen that most gangsters are, should I really be surprised?
ATM skimmers are electronic devices typically attached to the card slot of ATM machines, steal credit and debit card information from unsuspecting ATM users.

The appeal of 3D printing for ATM skimmer gangs lies in the complex design nature of such devices, in order to avoid detection each unit has to be carefully crafted to blend in with the targeted cash machine in both form and colour, a laborious process considering each particular ATM would require its own unique device.
Throw a 3D printer into the mix and the labour required for each device is considerably reduced. Now its simply a matter of snapping a few photos, taking some measurements and accessing 3d modelling software prior to hitting print and allowing the 3D printer do all the hard work.

3D printers are however costly with a high end desktop printer costing anywhere between $10,000 to $20,000 and while outsourcing printing to a prototyping bureau may appear like the next best option, however with 3d printing bureaus ever more vigilant, you run the risk of detection
While this negative application may taint the glow of 3D printing somewhat it is important to remember that 3D printing is not encouraging anything new, and in reality with costs of 3D printers high it is still easier to gain access to 3D skimmer kits than a 3D printer and CAD engineer.

Oct 10, 2011
Comments Off on Artificial bood vessels created on 3d printer

Artificial bood vessels created on 3d printer


German scientists construct blood vessels on 3d printer

German scientists construct blood vessels on 3d printer

In 2009, Dr. Atala, the director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, explained how one day 3d printing technology might be used to print organs and thanks to a team of researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute this future may be closer than ever before.

Until now, the supply of nutrients to artificial tissue via capillary vessels has proven a major stumbling block in tissue engineering. In order for a lab-made organ to function, it needs to be equipped with tiny and extremely complex tubes or blood vessels, to carry nutrients.

Numerous attempts to create synthetic capillaries have been made, but it is the work carried out by the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany that appears especially promising. According to the head of the BioRap project at Fraunhofer, Dr. Gunter Tovar, “the individual techniques are already functioning and they are presently working in the test phase”.

By combining 3d printing  with two-photon polymerisation – shining laser beams onto the 3d printed material in order to stimulate molecules in a very narrow focus point, it was possible to create an elastic solid which would interact with natural human tissue. These synthetic vessels are then coated with modified bio-molecules to prevent rejection by the living organism.

While still a long way off, this latest development brings 3D printing of tissue one step closer to saving the lives.

Sep 2, 2011
Comments Off on Rapid Prototyping bureau launches new resin at DSEi and TCT Live

Rapid Prototyping bureau launches new resin at DSEi and TCT Live


Customers of one of UK and Ireland’s leading Rapid Prototyping bureaus, Laser Prototypes will now be able to source gloss black Prototype models as the company are set to launch their new SLA resin SL7820 at DSEi and TCT Live later this month.

SL7820 is an advanced white photopolymer resin that produces durable solid black models, ideal for the highly specialised electrical prototypes for the automotive and aerospace industry, where black is the concept modelling colour of choice. Parts produced in this tough new ABS-like resin have an excellent surface finish, and can show fine detail with no additional finishing or painting required, offering considerable savings in terms of both time and cost.

With high impact strength and elongation point, SL78210 is suitable for building automotive/aerospace parts, electronics, consumer good packaging, housing and toys.

Samples of this new resin will be available at both DSEi (Stand S4-270) and TCT Live (Stand G2), or by contacting a member of the Laser Prototypes team.

Tough black SLA resin at Laser Prototypes

New black SLA resin offers high quality surface finish and excellent durability


Aug 23, 2011
Comments Off on Taking aircraft from design to 100mph in just 7 days

Taking aircraft from design to 100mph in just 7 days

Early this August the world of 3d printing turned it sights to the UK’s Wiltshire Downs, north of Stonehenge, as the worlds first fully “printed” plane took flight, achieving a max speed of 100mph.

This new printed aircraft, known as SULSA, forms part of a wider project on cutting-edge maufacturing techniques at the Southhampton University. The team led by Jim Scanlan and Andy Keane belive that 3d printing will revolutionise the design and manufacture of uncrewed aircraft known as drones or UAV’s, allowing for enhanced design, lower lead times and significant cost reductions over traditional methods.

Using 3d printing technology it was possible to for design team to take elements from some of the best ideas in aviation history such as the ultra low drag eliptical wing design of the Supermarine Spitfire and the strong geodesic airfrome of the Vickers Wellington bomber. With a £5000 budget the incorporation of these designs using traditional manufacturing techniques would have been cost prohibitive, however the use of laser sintering removed such cost constraints.

As 3d printing is based on additive technology no cutting or grinding of metal is required allowing vast design freedom. “With 3d printing we can go back to pure forms and explore the mathematics of airflow without being forced to put in straight lines to keep costs down” Keane explained. The design of the SULSA took a mere two days with production of final parts taking  five days to complete.

Watch the SULSA’s maiden flight below.

Aug 11, 2011
Comments Off on The new manufacturing revolution .. 3D Printing?

The new manufacturing revolution .. 3D Printing?

Since the early 1900’s the manufacturing industry has been dominated by mass production and the moving production line. With greater access to information and a wider choice of suppliers now available at the touch of a button, a growing market has emerged for mass customisation of products. Take for example Dell Computers they have successfully created a business model which focuses on the mass customisation of laptops and desktop computers, consumers can log on and “build” a computer that matches their individual needs.

3D printing may unlock the potential of this new and growing market. Not a new concept 3D printing was traditionally constrained to the production of one off items from fused plastic or metal powder, but now very big corporations have begun to sit up take note of its potential.  Once such corporation is EADS, earlier this year the firms aircraft plant near Bristol announced  that they had produced a bike using additive layer technology. The firm also relies on 3D printing to produce complex satellite parts which are lighter and more cost effective than conventionally – machined components.

Further evidence of the future potential of Rapid Prototyping  can be found at Loughborough University where researchers have developed a 3d printer that uses concrete to “print” large (2m x 2.5m x 5m) components. Should the researchers be able to prove the reliability 3D concrete printing it could dramatically reshape the construction industry.

Concrete Printer

For designers 3D printing puts them at centre of the manufacturing process, ensuring the power of making this is firmly in the hands of the designers. For finance directors and managers the ability to reduce stock and working capital presents significant cost savings while for the consumer 3d printing presents the opportunity to source products that better meet their actual needs.

Jul 15, 2011
Comments Off on Automotive giant fast tracks fuel efficiency with Rapid Prototyping

Automotive giant fast tracks fuel efficiency with Rapid Prototyping

Deep within the American automotive giant, General Motors design building lies a high security Rapid Prototyping lab. It is here future products for brands such as Chevrolet, Buik and Cadillac take shape thanks to a team of highly trained technicians, and two Rapid Prototyping processes – Stereolithography and Selective Laser Sintering

Both technologies have been used on a number of innovative vehicles such as the pre-production Chevrolet Volt, with Rapid Prototyping used to streamline the aesthetic design, and facilitate early stage testing and validation of under bonnet system design.  The Rapid Manufacture of components,  intricate sub assemblies and even scale model cats has allowed for General Motors to benefit from considerable savings in time and money as a result of  significant gains in creativity, flexibility and accuracy.

The 2001 Chevrolet Volt

General Motors pre-production electric Chevrolet Volt - designed with the help of Rapid Prototyping technology

In a recent interview General Motors Director of Design Fabrication Operations, Dave Bolognino said “thanks to the rapid pace of production from the Rapid Prototyping laboratory, General Motors aerodynamics lab has been able to double its capacity of testing scale models over the past two years, contributing to improved fuel efficiency on future GM vehicles. He continued by adding “Its a great way to reduce product development time, save costs, and give designers more options. I don’t see any end sight for General Motors use of this technology”

Jul 8, 2011
Comments Off on Rapid Prototyping Webinar

Rapid Prototyping Webinar

Laser Prototypes today announced a free live webinar on rapid prototyping processes on Thursday, July 14th, 2011 from 14:00 pm to 14:35 pm. This webinar will provide an overview of the main Rapid Prototyping processes and the factors which should be considered when choosing the right process for your individual project requirements. Anyone interested in learning about the Rapid Prototyping processes is invited to the informative session. To register for this webinar please click here.

Campbell Evans, Sales Director at Laser Prototypes with over 15 years experience in Rapid Prototyping, will present the session. During the 25 minute webinar. This session will outline the main prototyping techniques available today, including Stereolithography, Selective Laser Sintering, Vacuum Casting and 3D printing.

A live question and answer session will follow the presentation.

About Laser Prototypes

Laser Prototypes are the longest esablished Rapid Prototyping bureau in the UK and Ireland. Since opening its doors in 1991 Laser Prototypes have built a reputation for both quality and reliability, offering high quality prototype models to a wide range of customers, across all industry sectors, on time and on budget.

Jul 6, 2011
Comments Off on The 3D chocolate printer has arrived

The 3D chocolate printer has arrived

Researchers are University of Exeter develop 3D Chocolate Printer

Researchers are University of Exeter develop 3D Chocolate Printer

Thanks to the work of researchers at the University of Exeter, chocolate lovers are even closer to printing their own chocolate creations.

The research team lead by Dr. Liang Hao believe that what makes this technology special is that it will enable users to design and “print” their own products. In the long term it is anticipated that this technology will allow for the custom design of products in a range of different material, with chocolate initially chosen as it was readily available, low cost and non-hazardous.


3D Chocolate Printer

Source: The UK Engineering Physical Sciences Research Council

The project is currently at prototype stage, with several retailers having already expressed an interest in the 3d printing device. While future applications for this device appear promising, getting to the prototype stage has not been easy as getting a device to flawlessly print objects that taste good required the careful control of key parameters including temperature and cooling cycles. Since 2006 the team have been working on specially made temperature and heating control systems, which ensure the chocolate is maintained at the correct consistency to print.

Having developed the working prototype Dr. Hao and his team and in the process of designing an customer friendly interface for the design of chocolate objects along with a website where customers can upload their chocolate designs for 3d printing and delivery.

Hopefully this website will be up and running soon, as all this talk of chocolate is making me hungry…