The most interesting 3D printers introduced (so far) at CES 2015

It’s difficult to believe it was only a year ago that 3D printers became a common sight at CES. They are back again this year, with a whole range of startups and established firms flexing their maturing lineups of machines.

This is what 3D printing will look like in 2015.

The staples

Well-established players like MakerBot and 3D Systems aren’t likely to release any major updates to the flagship desktop machines they debuted last year at CES, but plenty of other companies are willing to fill that void.

Ultimaker, now three years old, expanded beyond its Ultimaker 2 with the Ultimaker 2 Go and Ultimaker 2 Extended. The $1,450 Go is smaller and lacks a heated bed. The $3,030 Extended is bigger, faster and capable of printing in finer detail. They have the same screen and touch wheel as the Ultimaker 2. I noted in November that the Ultimaker 2 is becoming a staple in office environments, so it’s exciting to see the company diversifying.

The full lineup of Ultimaker 3D printers.

The full lineup of Ultimaker 3D printers.

ROBO also came to CES with an expanded lineup. Its $799 R1 is now joined by the $1,500 R2 and $10,000 R MEGA, according to 3Dprint.com. The R2 builds on the R1’s features with additions like a second print nozzle, LCD screen and larger 10 x 10 x 10 inch build volume. The R MEGA’s $10,000 price isn’t a typo; the enormous machine has a 39 x 39 x 39 inch build area.

The HD-R by Airwolf isn’t quite that massive, but it’s still big for a desktop machine. It prints objects up to 11 x 8 x 12 inches in size and has add-ons like a camera and Wi-Fi connectivity. At $4,595, its price is also big.

The price leaders

ROBO‘s lineup also extends to the new R MINI, which will sell for $399. It prints a tiny 4.5 x 4.5 x 4.5 inch build volume. It sacrifices a few features like Wi-Fi and multiple nozzles to hit its price tag, but entry-level users just looking for a cheap machine probably won’t mind.

The da Vinci Junior is smaller and simpler to use.

The da Vinci Junior is smaller and simpler to use.

Taiwan’s XYZprinting seized on CES to keep spitting out new printers. The $349 da Vinci Junior isn’t actually that much cheaper than XYZprinting’s already low-priced da Vinci 1.0, but it looks a whole lot easier to manage. The 1.0 was enormous and unpolished. The Junior has more modern features like a quick-release print head. And it’s a lot smaller. Excellent.

It also put a price on its Nobel 1.0, a stereolithographic 3D printer. It will cost $1,499 and ship in the third quarter of 2015. $1,499 might not sound so low, but it is for this technology. SLA uses a laser to cure liquid plastic layer by layer. It has traditionally cost a lot more than the fused deposition modeling technique found in most desktop printers. In its typical style, XYZprinting is sprinting to market with its first SLA machine.

The sweet

I don’t know about you, but all this talk about 3D printers is making me hungry. 3D Systems announced its latest food machine, a chocolate printer built during its partnership with Hershey’s. The CocoJet prints delicious, gooey chocolate layer by layer, just like in those Hershey’s 3D printing videos. It complements the sugar printers 3D Systems debuted last year (and still has yet to ship).

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gyKmB6RK-4&w=560&h=315]

Oh, and there’s one more machine from XYZprinting. The company has been demoing its Food Printer for a few months now, and finally brought it stateside for CES. It prints unbaked cookie dough and chocolate decorations. It will cost around $500 and ship out in mid-2015.

The futuristic

Spectrom adapts 3D printers to print in a full range of colors.

Spectrom adapts 3D printers to print in a full range of colors.

3Dprint.com reported another interesting tidbit of news from ROBO: It plans to integrate Spectrom‘s full-color 3D printing technology into its printers, starting with the R1. Spectrom is an adapter invented by two University of Wisconsin students that allows most printers to make multicolored prints. It doesn’t print with multiple spools of different colors of plastic; instead, it actually blends colors to achieve a full spectrum. That’s pretty much unheard of in 3D printing, especially for a desktop machine.

A drone with a 3D printed body and conductive strips. The chip and motors are embedded.

A drone with a 3D printed body and conductive strips. The chip and motors are embedded.

If you’ve been aching to print yourself a new iPhone, your day has not come quite yet. But it’s on its way. Voxel8, which draws its founding team from Harvard, announced an interesting hybrid machine that prints both plastic and conductive ink — the materials necessary to print rudimentary electronic devices.

A developer version of the printer will begin shipping in late 2015. The $8,999 machine is a good-looking, desktop-sized printer with smart features like an auto-leveling print bed and touchscreen. Autodesk’s new Wire 3D software will power the design process.

That’s what we have seen so far, and it’s only Tuesday. I am personally excited for XYZprinting and Ultimaker’s smaller, cheaper machines and the coming wave of electronics printers. It’s also great to see Airwolf, ROBO and their peers continue to mature from humble beginnings.
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Da Vinci 1.0 review: a bargain 3D printer that comes at a cost

Crowdfunding sites have been teasing us with inexpensive 3D printers for a year now. But in the end the first modern desktop 3D printer that costs less than $500 came from Taiwan, not Kickstarter or Indiegogo.

The printer is the Da Vinci 1.0, and it is just one of a whole lineup of low-cost machines that XYZprinting has pumped out this year. It is by no means a beautiful machine, but it gets the basics done. Here is how it did over a month of tests:

Two of the best prints I got off the Da Vinci 1.0.

Two of the best prints I got off the Da Vinci 1.0.

Setup

I wasn’t expecting a whole lot from a $399 3D printer. But the process I had to go through to get it up and running for the first time managed to set my expectations even lower.

The first printer that arrived turned on just fine. I installed XYZprinting’s proprietary filament cartridge in the back corner, where it makes contact with a chip to ensure you’re not using off-brand filament (hint: there are some ways around that).

Then came the annoying part: feeding the filament into the print head. It involves pulling on an uncomfortable-feeling lever and then carefully guiding the filament down through a tube to the nozzle. I got better at this as time went on, but at first I wouldn’t feed enough in or would push so hard that the filament string snuck off the tube into a random part of the head. It can be aggravating.

The Da Vinci 1.0 3D printer's innards.

The Da Vinci 1.0 3D printer’s innards

Next you swab a glue stick over the print bed and hit print. It turned out my annoyances were not over. The print head rammed itself into a corner and made the dreaded “EH EH EH EH EH EH” noise. I couldn’t figure out a fix.

A very kind XYZprinting customer service representative walked me through how to test the different sensors in the machine that position the print head, but nothing helped. I sent the printer back.

The next printer seemed to be better. The print head moved well and everything seemed to be going smoothly. I teed up my first print and then … nothing. No filament came out of the nozzle.

It turned out there was a terrible filament jam. The kind representative once again walked me through every little technical step. I opened up the print head and yanked out a plug of red plastic. All set, right? Nope. The print head refused to pull filament in. XYZprinting sent a replacement head.

Finally, with my second printer and third print head, everything started working.

The software

XYZprinting’s software, XYZware, isn’t much different from the 3D printing software people were using five years ago. It is not refined. It does the bare minimum: resizing models, moving them around and sending everything over to the printer.

Once you get to finalizing a print, it gets worse. Slicing, where a model is converted into the code that will be fed into the printer, often randomly failed. And even if models did slice, sometimes transferring them to the printer didn’t work. This happened especially often with large prints.

Large prints would inexplicably fail to be sent to the printer.

Large prints would inexplicably fail to be sent to the printer.

When I asked XYZprinting about the errors, they said the model printed fine for them and that I should try a different computer or a different USB cord. Neither worked.

The machine

The Da Vinci is enormous, measuring 18.4 x 20 x 22 inches and 57 pounds. It does pack a relatively large 7.8 x 7.8 x 7.8 inch build volume, but for the most part the machine seemed to be wasted space. There were inches of extra room on every side of the print bed. Due to the previously mentioned software problems, I never got anywhere close to using all of that space in a print.

The Da Vinci 1.0 3D printer.

The Da Vinci 1.0 3D printer

The printer is also one of the ugliest I’ve come across. XYZprinting’s model is to get lots of printers out quickly and cheaply, and it shows in the Da Vinci’s design. It is not a piece of desk candy.

XYZprinting did not, however, skimp on designing the necessities. While the Da Vinci’s heated print bed and head look generic enough to be found in any inexpensive printer, both were made well enough that I did not have to calibrate them once.

The Da Vinci does have some extra features, such as a small box where the nozzle cleans itself before and after each print. This made clogs and other nozzle maintenance almost nonexistent.

The on-board menu is basic. You can use it to direct the printer to clean the nozzle or recalibrate, pause a print and load a new filament cartridge.

The prints

I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the prints that came out of the Da Vinci. After dealing with setup and the software, I wasn’t expecting to get any prints out of it at all. But I did, and lots of them.

Charmanders printed at low, medium and high quality.

Charmanders printed at low, medium and high quality.

The printer had days where every single print was perfect and days where it couldn’t be bothered to do anything right. Large prints tended to come out nicely, while dainty details ended up looking like messes.

A dainty Eiffel Tower and bracelet did not fare well on the Da Vinci 1.0.

A dainty Eiffel Tower and bracelet did not come out well on the Da Vinci 1.0.

The Da Vinci can print layers down to 0.1 mm in size, which is fairly standard for any desktop 3D printer these days. When layers were continuous — without tons of tiny details — it did great. It was even more reliable when printing at 0.2 and 0.3 mm heights.

A thin pot printed on the Da Vinci came out perfectly.

A thin pot printed on the Da Vinci came out perfectly.

Wrap-up

The Da Vinci 1.0 is the perfect example of “you get what you pay for.” If you don’t get a lemon, it can definitely produce decent prints. You just need to learn what it is capable of and choose prints that fit within those limits.

Personally, I wouldn’t buy the Da Vinci just based on its size alone. There are plenty more $500 printers that will arrive in the next few years. Hopefully at least one of them won’t eat up an entire desk.

Watch Hershey’s kisses be 3D printed in crazy shapes

Melty chocolate is, it turns out, the perfect consistency for 3D printing. And so Hershey’s and 3D Systems have spent the last year developing chocolate and sugar printers. Hershey’s will open an exhibit this week in Pennsylvania showcasing their creations, but you can also check out a video of the sugary goodness here. You can’t buy your own Hershey’s-branded 3D printer, but 3D Systems does sell desktop sugar printers. Yum.

3D printing the 19th century

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/02/3-d-printing-the-19th-century/?smid=tw-share
There are millions of U.S. patents now in the public domain, which means they are free for anyone to use. Martin Galese, a New York lawyer, found the archives to be the perfect inspiration for 3D printing designs. A New York Times article says he has made a hat comb, stove pipe screw, pot scraper and more. The 3D designs are available on his blog and Thingiverse. “You’re holding the 19th century by way of something that was produced in the 21st century,” Galese said.