Friday, December 26, 2014

Folding, Fashion and 4D Printing

Kinematics Dress in Motion
Over the past year, 3D printed fashions have been showing up on the runways at major fashion events. Some of the creations have been stunning, but most are structured more like a ridged plastic cage than a comfortable garment.  They have also been complex to assemble after being printed as a set of small individual components to fit within the build area of the 3D printer.


Nervous System, a generative design studio based in Somerville, Massachusetts has developed a method to create a comfortable, full size, 4D printed dress in a single build. The first dress manufactured is so beautiful and revolutionary that it has been acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York as part of its permanent collection.

In 4D printing, the fourth dimension is change. It refers to the creation of 3D printed items that are intended to transform over time.  In the case of Nervous System, their method, which they call Kinematics, produces items with tens to thousands of unique components that interlock into dynamic mechanical structures.  Each individual component is rigid, but combined, they act as a continuous fabric. A large item, like a dress, can be printed as a single assembly and unfolded after removal from the printer.

Kinematics Dress Fabrication
The Kinematics dress was 3D printed using Selective Laser Sintering as a single piece in nylon. It consists of 2279 unique triangular panels interconnected by 3316 hinges. Over time, as the resolution of 3D printers increase, more components made from thinner and lighter materials will lead to 4D printed fabrics that increasingly lightweight and comfortable.

The implications of 4D printing go far beyond fashion. Skylar Tibbits, a Reseach Scientist in MIT's Department of Architecture is developing self assembling and programmable materials that can transform dramatically after removal from the printer.  Be sure to check out his TED talk in the video below.




 
Kinematics Dress by Nervous System - 3D Printed by Shapeways

 

 
4D Printing is the Future of Design


 
Skylar Tibbits: The emergence of "4D printing"

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

How Smart is that Device?

Nest Self-learning Thermostat
Nest Self-learning Thermostat
In just over two weeks, the Consumer Electronics Show will open in Las Vegas. As the world's top electronics companies present the toys that will be on our Christmas lists for next year, the level of intelligence in those devices will be unbelievable.

Last month, at the Printed Electronics Conference in Santa Clara, California, Fred Theil, CEO of B&B Electronics, explained his scale for determining the intelligence of consumer products.

Smart - A smart device can be programmed. A thermostat that allows you to set different temperatures for different times of the day would be a good example.

Connected - A connected device can access content from the Internet. The classic example is a game console that can stream Netflix movies to your living room.

Autonomous - Autonomous devices learn without being programed. The Nest thermostat allows you to adjust the temperature just as you would have with a traditional analog thermostat.  Each time you make an adjustment, Nest remembers your preferences and learns your patterns to keep your home the right temperature.

Collaborative - These types of devices communicate with each other to coordinate in their functionality. When your security system keeps your thermostat informed about whether or not you are at home, they are collaborative.

I am not sure these particular definitions are used by anyone other than Theil, but they do provide an interesting scale for evaluating new devices. Currently, most intelligent devices fit into the lower end of the scale, but I expect several important announcements of collaborative devices at CES.

Are you looking forward to the day when your refrigerator and your elliptical can converse with each other?

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Top Tech Stories of 2015




2015
In three weeks, it will already be 2015 which makes this a good time to forecast the top tech stories of the new year. What will we be hearing about the most in the following months?

Internet of Everything


When the 1993 release of the Mosaic browser made the Internet accessible to everyone, the connections were primarily between people. Soon millions of people were connected sending emails and browsing websites. In recent years, most people in the developed world have multiple devices that they can use to go online and most new home entertainment systems and even some appliances are connected. With billions of connected devices, it is the age of the Internet of Things.

In 2015, we will hear much more about the connectivity of smaller devices including light bulbs, thermostats, watches, shoes and clothing. But the biggest surge in connected items will be intelligent packaging of consumer packaged goods. The first applications will track the history of pharmaceuticals and perishable foods, but eventually all consumer packaging will include some form of intelligent identification.  This expansion into trillions of connected items is The Internet of Everything.

Wearable Electronics


NuMetrex Heart Monitoring Sports Bra
Wearable Electronics were a big story in 2014 and will be bigger in 2015. Many examples are already on the market including smart watches, fitness trackers and shirts with OLED displays. With the announcement of the Apple Watch in September, interest in the category exploded into the mainstream. When the Apple Watch is introduced in early 2015, consumers will be eager to learn how they will use it and investors will be eager to learn how it impacts the growth of the world's most valuable company.

Additive Manufacturing


Fabricated by GE Using Additive Manufacturing
Fabricated by GE Using Additive Manufacturing

3D printing has been one of the biggest stories of 2013 and 2014, but the press is just beginning to realize that the biggest impact will be in the industrial sector where the technology is being used for additive manufacturing. The ability to create parts with complex geometry from materials that are difficult to machine using traditional methods will drive rapid growth in the aerospace and medical fields. Growth in materials like Titanium Aluminide and other exotic metals that can be used in the 3D metal printers will be even greater than the growth in the machines themselves.

 Each of these three were important stories were important in 2014, but will be even bigger in 2015.

What do you believe will be the greatest tech story next year?

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Print Your Dinner

Cake topper printed on ChefJet Pro
Cake topper printed on ChefJet Pro
During the holiday season, family gatherings often include hours in the kitchen preparing the traditional holiday feast.  While electric mixers, food processors, pre-packaged dishes and modern stoves and ovens have greatly reduced the amount of time required to prepare a big meal, some wonder if we will soon reach the point where we can simply press a button and print dinner on a 3D printer.

The first course that will be able to be 3D printed will probably be desert. The crystalline nature of sugar allows it to work well in a powder bed printer using water as a binding agent. The ChefJet printer from 3D Systems uses this method to create beautifully complex confectionery that can be a delicate as a snowflake.  The ChefJet Pro goes even further by including color dyes in the binder enabling full color deserts.

Pizza printed on a Foodini printer.
Pizza printed on a Foodini printer.
Most of the rest of the engineering around 3D food printing involves extruding pastes to build up structures which would require cooking after printing. Since flour, tomato paste and cheese can all be formulated into pastes, pizza and pasta dishes are excellent candidates for printing. The Foodini 3D food printer in development by Natural Machines can print with all of these ingredients and many more including chocolate, chicken and chickpeas.

Printing a full turkey or a rib roast is unlikely to happen in the near future, if ever. But it won't belong before 3D printers sit next to the mixer and the microwave in a modern kitchen.

What would you like to print in your kitchen?

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thankful for Bioprinting


Cross-section of multi-cellular bioprinted human liver tissue
Cross-section of multi-cellular bioprinted human liver tissue
This is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. As always, I have a lot to be thankful for and one of those things is 3D Bioprinting. As an amateur futurist and technology analyst, I enjoy following all types of technical discovery. But medical innovations are particularly exciting.

Last week represented a major inflection point in 3D bioprinting. Organovo, the San Diego based bioprinting company, introduced their first commercial product; a 3D printed human liver tissue that can help predict liver tissue toxicity in potential new drugs. Based on work done at the University of Missouri, this process will speed the development of new drugs by eliminating toxic compounds earlier in the discovery process.

This development, along with advancements in printing of orthopedic implants by companies like Arcam AB and improvements in 3D printed prosthetics, have made 2014 a watershed year for medical applications of 3D printing. Going forward, medical applications will be one of the largest and most important segments of the additive manufacturing market.

Are you thankful for any particular technologies?

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Following the Rails to Promontory Point

Teri and I are considering a road trip that would follow the original route of the eastern portion of the Transcontinental Railroad from Omaha, Nebraska to Promontory Point, Utah. It seems that it would be a fun summer trip through some beautiful scenery and a chance to see some interesting historical sites.

Here are some of the places we are considering visiting:

The Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs Iowa.

Union Pacific Railroad Museum

The Durham Museum located in Union Station in Omaha, Nebraska.

Union Station Omaha, Nebraska

The Golden Spike Tower overlooking Bailey Yard in North Platte, Nebraska.

Golden Spike Tower

Cody Park Railway Museum in North Platte Nebraska.

Cody Park Railway Museum

Cheyenne Depot Museum in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Cheyenne Depot Museum

The Utah State Railroad Museum at Union Station in Ogden, Utah.


Utah State Railroad Museum




The Golden Spike Visitors Center at Promontory Point, Utah.


Golden Spike Visitors Center

What other sites would you recommend visiting along this route?

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Avastars Makes You the Star

Avastarship by Avastars
The Avastarship, which launched yesterday in the main foyer of the St. Louis Galleria Mall, would have looked right at home on the set of the original Star Trek series. An aluminum cylinder, ringed with glowing bands of psychedelic color, is hard to miss. The 3D scanner in the center of the ship won't break you apart and beam you through space, but it will launch you instantly into a 65 inch tall, personalized Avastars video where you are the star.

The animated videos let you be a rockstar, fashionista, cheerleader, veterinarian, firefighter, cool rocker, special forces hero or a martial arts master.  A few days after the mall experience, you will receive a 3D printed personalized doll or action figure with your own face.

"This isn't about 3D technology," explains Avastars' cofounder Dan Lauer. "The girl who comes to Avastars doesn't care about 3D printing.  She wants to be a princess or a popstar and that's what really maters."


Avastars doll and action figure
The St. Louis startup was cofounded by Lauer and Jill Barad, the former Chairman and CEO of Mattel who led the explosion in the popularity of Barbie in the 1980s and 1990s. Lauer's previous ventures include the creation of the Water Babies brand of realistic baby dolls. The management team also includes Scott Harmon who honed his 3D technology experience at Zcorp prior to and after its acquisition by 3D Systems and Brandon Elliot, formerly the Director of Digital Ventures at Build-a-Bear Workshop.

In addition to the St. Louis Galleria, Avastarships are also launching this year in Oak Brook, Illinois and Cincinnati, Ohio.  The companies goal is to expand into thousands of retail locations.

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

What Do I Know for Certain?


There is one point on which I am absolutely certain. One thing of which I am certain is that there is little else that I know for certain.

The world does not follow a random and arbitrary set of rules. The laws of physics do not change. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. But the world is complex and impossible to model accurately.


Because the world is too complex to fully understand, it can appear random and arbitrary at the individual level. I don't know what today will bring.  I hope to finish this post, go for a hike at Rock Bridge State Park then come home and do some reading. But there is also a possibility that I will get hit by a car, shot by a terrorist or attacked by a mountain lion. It might be safer to go back to bed.

It is highly probable that I will have a pleasant walk and a quiet afternoon. Since I write these posts in advance and post them manually, if you are reading this, I made it home.

I don't know for certain what today will bring. I don't know whether the market will go up or down next week. I don't know whether my remaining time is short or long. The one thing of which I am certain is that there is little else that I know for certain.

However, I believe that by thinking in probabilities rather than certainties, my understanding of the world is more accurate. Expecting the expected and some elements of the unexpected is the most reasonable expectation. The way we respond to the unexpected defines us.

What do you feel you know for certain?

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Union Pacific Rolls and Rocks

Union Pacific Locomotive
I grew up in a small town in Missouri in a house that was about 100 feet from one of the main tracks of the Missouri Pacific Railroad. I remember the wail of the horn, the roar of the diesel engines and the shaking of the ground when the trains rolled by several times per day. The trains were as friendly as they were powerful and always began with a wave from the engineer in the cab of the locomotive and ended with a wave from the conductor in the caboose.

Originally the Pacific Railroad, ground breaking for the Missouri Pacific took place in St. Louis on July 4th, 1851, making it the first railroad west of the Mississippi River. The line merged with the Union Pacific in 1982 and over the next decade, the familiar blue locomotives were repainted in bright yellow and red.

Although I seldom have the opportunity to count the cars on passing trains anymore, I remain a big fan of the Union Pacific Railroad. It is the second largest holding in my portfolio and one of my favorite companies. Here are a few of the reasons why:

1.  The Union Pacific is a strong, financially stable company with an extremely dedicated and competent management team. The strength of the leadership is apparent in their earnings announcements through the results they present and the way they present those results.

2. As long as the world needs to eat, build houses, drive cars or drill for oil, there will be strong demand for rail services which will allow the company to grow and price its service at a level that will allow for future investment.

3.  The company is protected by a strong moat. The capital investment required to build the rails, purchase the locomotives and rolling stock, staff the trains and yards, and manage the logistics are a barrier against excessive competition.

4.  The operating premise of a railroad is easy to understand and transparent. It is a business that Warren Buffet would love and does since his company owns the Burlington Northern Santa Fe.

5. Reviewing the quarterly financial statements of the Union Pacific provides a wonderful overview of the health of the country's economy as a whole and can reveal trends and opportunities before they are apparent in the mainstream news.

6.  The inertia and stability of a slowly growing company like the Union Pacific helps dampen the gyrations of a portfolio highly weighted in 3D printing companies.

Did you ever count the cars on the trains as they passed?

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Influenced by the Future

Forecasting is a critically important skill for a businessperson or an investor. But almost all forecasts are wrong to some degree. Why is it so difficult?

George Soros, in his book The Alchemy of Finance, postulates a theory of reflexivity that sheds light on some of the reasons why predicting the future is almost impossible. Reflexivity observes that people make predictions based upon their expectations of the future. The actions people take based upon those predictions actually change the course of events to create a different future. Actions, influenced by future expectations, of millions of people interact in ways that are far too complex to model.

Reflexivity is easiest to observe in the stock market where it leads to the boom and bust cycles that we saw in the technology boom of the late 90s and the housing bubble that caused the great recession. Although the book was originally published in 1987, before either of these crashes, those events fit the theory precisely.

Reflexivity predicts that in the early build up of a boom/bust cycle, there is accelerated growth in a sector that accurately reflects the fundamental growth potential. The accelerated growth creates an expectation of future growth that pushes prices higher than the fundamentals support. After a period of growth, there is usually a price correction that stokes fear of a price crash. When the prices recover from the correction, investors are relieved and the growth cycle begins anew. The very fact that the correction didn't cause a crash makes investors less wary. Prices continue to increase, fueling expectations of more increases until the the difference between the price and the value becomes to great to ignore leading to a catastrophic crash.

If we consider the reflexivity model and 3D printing stocks, it would appear that the period from 2008 through 2013 represents the initial period of accelerated growth. The dramatic decline in prices during the first quarter of 2014 represents the correction. It follows that the stocks should now enter the second period of rapid growth.

What is your favorite growth investment?



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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Printing with Human Cells

3D Bioprinter by Organovo
3D Bioprinter by Organovo
One of the most important applications for 3D printing is still in the very early stages and is projected to grow to a $6 billion dollar market by the next decade. Bioprinting uses 3D printing technology and bio-ink building blocks to create three dimensional tissue where the cell function and viability are preserved within the printed item.

Cross-section of multi-cellular bioprinted human liver tissue
Cross-section of multi-cellular bioprinted human liver tissue

Using research and patents developed by Dr. Gabor Forgacs at the University of Missouri, Organovo is on the verge of releasing a product that uses 3D bioprinting to create a Human Liver System that can detect toxicity in potential new drugs. By detecting toxicity earlier, the Human Liver System reduces the risks of introducing dangerous drugs and saves the expense of testing in live patients.

While the first applications for Organovo's bioprinting are drug testing, the company believes that "engineered tissues will someday be a routine source of therapy for patients with damages or diseased tissue.  Using bioprinted organ patches made from the patient's own cells could prevent transplant rejection and the need for immunosuppresant drugs.


 
Organovo's scientific founder, Gabor Forgacs, presents on bioprinting at TEDMED.

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Reverse Mentoring

In his latest book, Mastery, Robert Greene stresses the importance of finding a good mentor and learning all that you can from them. The mentoring relationship is powerful and impacts both the person being mentored and the one doing the mentoring.

I have had some outstanding mentors over the years and I am particularly grateful to Larry Anderson who saw a lot more potential in me than I did back in the early 1980s. When I moved into sales and marketing management, I tried to be a good mentor myself.

One point that is often overlooked in the mentoring discussion is how much can be learned by the person doing the mentoring. With maturity comes an accumulation of useful experience and hopefully a little wisdom, but there is always more to learn. Listening attentively is often more helpful and supportive than sharing those tidbits of wisdom.

Are you a teacher or a learner today?  Or both?

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Thursday, October 9, 2014

What to 3D Print at Home

3D Printed Shoes by Recreus at Thingiverse
3D Printed Shoes by Recreus at Thingiverse
I have been looking for an excuse to buy a 3D printer to play with at home. But I am struggling to figure out something useful to print with it. While some of the large industrial 3D printers can form beautiful metals and ceramics, the inexpensive home printers are limited to several varieties of plastics.

Here are some of the types of filaments that are currently available for a typical desktop fused filament fabrication 3D printer:

  • PLA - Polylactic acid is a biodegradable polyester derived from renewable sources, often cornstarch or sugarcane.  It is the most popular material for desktop 3D printing because it has a low melting temperature, can be used without a heated bed, and can produce finer feature detail than ABS.
  • ABS - Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene is a strong thermoplastic that requires a higher temperature on the printer and a heated bed. While it is less brittle than PLA, it is harder to work with and creates toxic fumes during the printing process.
  • PET - Polyethylene terephthalate is a transparent thermoplastic that can be used for food and beverage containers. Perhaps I could print some uniquely shaped Tupperware replacements.
  • Nylon - Nylon is a silky, flexible thermoplastic that requires much higher temperatures to print than PLA or ABS. Being strong and flexible makes it a good candidate for printing a personalized iPhone case.
  • Rubber - Not really rubber, but a rubber like thermoplastic elastomer that looks and feels like rubber. It also requires higher temperatures than PLA and ABS so not every desktop printer can use it. Perhaps my wife would like a unusually shaped pair of new shoes.
  • Wood - Actually a composite of polymers blended with 40% wood fiber. It has thermal characteristics similar to PLA, but it looks and feels like wood.
After learning more about these materials, I visited the Makerbot Thingiverse to browse through the downloadable digital designs. While there are many interesting pieces of art and fashion on the site, it is hard to get enthusiastic about printing plastic sculpture or jewelry.


My search for a real use for a home 3D printer continues.

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Creatives of a Feather Flock Together

San Fransisco de Assisi Mission Church by George O'Keeffe
When we were visiting Taos, New Mexico last month, we delighted in the quantity, quality and diversity of art in the galleries and museums. From 1898 on, artists have been attracted to the Taos valley by the beautiful landscape and the intense desert light.

They were also attracted to Taos by each other. By 1915, six artists had formed the Taos Society of Artists and Mabel Dodge Luhan was soon attracting other writers and artists to her Taos salon meetings. Georgia O'Keeffe's paintings often featured scenes from the Taos area.

Thoughout history, creative people have gathered into communities to learn from each other and encourage each other.  Think of these examples:
  • Athens in the 5th century BC
  • Northern Italy in the 14th and 15th centuries
  • Vienna in the 18th century
  • Paris in the 19th century
  • Silicon Valley in the 20th and 21st centuries
These creative communities were based upon geography, but today we can easily share ideas worldwide using the Internet and social media.

How do you participate in your creative community?

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Apple NFC and Thin Film Electronics

Printed Memory from Thin Film Electronics
Printed Memory from Thin Film Electronics
The new Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are the first Apple devices to include a near field communications antenna. Apple's initial focus with the NFC capability will be their innovative new payments system. Going forward, NFC in the iPhone may be a big boost to a small Norwegian company named Thin Film Electronics.

Thin Film Electronics ASA is the only public company focused solely on printed electronics. Using a proprietary roll-to-roll process, the company uses gravure and screen printing technologies to print electronic components, including thin film transistors for logic, onto an expensive PET plastic. In May, they demonstrated an NFC enabled smart label for monitoring the temperature history of a package.

NFC has been available in Android devices for a couple of years, but without Apple, consumer applications for the technology have been severely hampered. With both Apple and Google on board, soon almost everyone will be carrying an NFC enabled device. This opens the door to much greater use of smart packaging which Thin Film Electronics is uniquely positioned to supply.

Smart packaging can be used to prevent counterfeiting, track storage conditions, or provide more detailed product information than will fit on the package. This kind of information can greatly improve the safety of perishable foods and pharmaceuticals.




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Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Long Tail of the Social Stationery Market

Personalized Triple Thick Stationery from Minnie & Emma Correspondence
Personalized Triple Thick Stationery from Minnie & Emma
When I first encountered Chris Anderson's The Long Tail in 2006, I told my work associates that it was the most important business book that I had read in a decade. Anderson predicted that the nearly unlimited product choices available in online media services like iTunes and Rhapsody would not only transform the music industry, but also impact the future of all businesses.

Rhapsody was eclipsed by Pandora which is suffering at the hands of Spotify, but the basic premise was completely accurate. Today, no matter what you want, someone makes it, Google will find it for you and Amazon will get it to you in two days with free shipping.

It has taken longer for the Long Tail effect to impact the social stationery market. Just a few years ago, when people wanted to send out a card or write a quick note, they would pick up something from a Hallmark store, a discount store or an office supply store. You had to live with the limited number of designs those outlets carried.

HP Indigo Presses are used for on-demand printing at Black River Imaging
Today you can match your card and notepad to your personality and even your mood. Hundreds of specialty boutiques, online stationers, even Etsy shops supply unique and personalized stationery and gifts. These companies are able to provide such a wide variety of choice because of the on-demand printing capability of the digital press.

Before the digital press, the only way to reduce the unit cost of a printed item, was to increase the number units printed. To launch a new stationery brand required a gigantic investment in inventory along with storage space and a distribution network to move the items to the retailers. To keep these expenses manageable, companies limited the number of different designs to those that had the most general appeal. Most social stationery companies still operate that way.

The New Dime Store in Brookside, Missouri
The New Dime Store offers unique stationery by Ann Page
On-demand printing allows a stationery brand to launch without any investment in inventory. They can focus on design and sales without printing anything beyond a few samples.  When the orders begin to arrive, they print exactly what is needed and send it to the store or the final customer. Without worries about inventory build up, they can offer a greater number of standard designs and customize designs to fit the regional tastes or the preferences of a particular store.

Minnie & Emma Correspondence is a perfectly example of this new trend. Created by a group of New York City designers who love smart design and clever execution, they offer luxury stationery and gifts that allow "you to communicate in a simple and tasteful way." They encourage their customers to "push the envelope and work with our designers to create something unique."

Thank you card by Minnie & Emma Correspondence
Thank you card by Minnie & Emma Correspondence
What personalized items have you ordered lately?

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Learning About 3D Printing

Robo 3D Printer
Robo 3D Printer
3D printing, or more precisely, additive manufacturing, is one of my favorite areas of research. I believe the technology fits perfectly with the long term trends of more personalized products and shorter manufacturing runs. Here are some of the best sources for 3D printing information and news:



 

The Basics


How to 3D Print - Beginners Guide via 3D Printer Plans

3D Printers For Sale - A guide to consumer level 3D printers that is maintained by 3D Printer Plans


3D Printer News and Blogs


3DPrint.com

3DPrintingIndustry.com

3DPrinterPlans.info/blog/

Tctmagazine.com

Shapeways.com/blog


Investment Opportunities


These are publicly traded companies that manufacture 3D printers:

Stratasys

3D Systems Corp

Arcam AB

ExOne

Voxeljet AG

Organova Holdings


 3D Printing Services


Shapeways

Sculpteo

i.materialise

Cubify

Red Eye


I feel this information is important enough that I have included it as a new page on this blog to keep it more easily accessible.

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Beautiful Rio Grande Gorge

180 Panoramic of the Taos Valley
180 Panoramic of the Taos Valley
Terri Admiring the View of the Taos Valley
Terri Admiring the View of the Taos Valley
While in the Taos valley, we decided it would be a perfect opportunity to do some hiking in the Rio Grande Gorge at the Wild River National Monument. The images below are 360 degree spherical panoramics. Click on the captions to view them in the Google Panoramic viewer.

Spherical Panoramic of the Trail to Arsenic Spring
Spherical Panoramic of the Trail to Arsenic Spring


The Rio Grande as far as the wife can see
As Far as the Wife can See

The Petroglyphs Near Arsenic Spring
The Petroglyphs Near Arsenic Spring

The Rio Grande River at My Feet
The Rio Grande River at My Feet
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Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Photogenic Fechins

Nicolai Fechin Self-Portrait
Nicolai Fechin Self-Portrait
Nicolai Fechin was a Russian-American painter who lived in Taos, New Mexico from 1927 to 1933. This week, Terri and I visited the house that he built for his family and were very impressed by the adobe architecture, the hand carved woodwork and the beautiful portraits that Nicolai painted of his wife and daughter.

Alexandra Fechin by Nicolai Fechin
Alexandra Fechin by Nicolai Fechin
Nicolai was born in Russia in 1881 and studied at the Kazan Art School in St. Petersburg. He married Alexandra, the daughter of the school's director in 1913. Their daughter Eya was born the following year and after the divorce of her parents in 1933, she moved with her father to New York, then Santa Monica.

Eya was a frequent model for her father and played a critical role in the preservation of the Fechin House in Taos.

Eya Fechin by Nicolai Fechin
Eya Fechin by Nicolai Fechin
While visiting the Fechin House, I couldn't resist capturing a Photo Sphere of the Garden. You can take a look here.

The Garden of The Fechin House in 360
The Garden of The Fechin House in 360
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Monday, August 25, 2014

The Fechin is Fetching in 360

The Fechin House and Taos Art Museum, Taos New Mexico
The Fechin House and Taos Art Museum
The Fechin House in Taos, New Mexico seemed the perfect place to test Google's new Photo Sphere app for iOS. The new iPhone app lets you capture a 360 degree view of any location by capturing a series of images in all directions.

The Photo Sphere app leads you step by step through the process of creating the sphere by showing you a series of orange dots that indicate each view you should capture.  In addition to shooting in all directions on a single plane, the app also has you capture images pointing up and pointing down to create a complete spherical view from your current location. The hardest part about using the app is standing in exactly the same place, without falling, while turning in circles to capture each of the views.

The Fechin House in 360 Degrees.
The Fechin House in 360 Degrees.
After your sphere is captured, the software requires a few minutes to stitch the images together to compute the sphere. You then have the option to upload the image to Google Plus where it can be shared and evaluated by Google to be shown on Google Earth.

The 360 degree images are more interesting than attractive when viewed in a two dimensional plane. They are both fun and attractive when viewed through the Google Panoramic Viewer. Click here to see this sphere of The Fechin House.

The Photo Sphere app is fun and as it gains more and more users, it will be a tremendous supplement to the increasingly complete view of the earth provided by Google Earth.

Where do you want to capture 360?

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Drug Delivery Via 3D Print

Biodegradable 3D Printed Implants for Drug Delivery via 3DPrint.com
3D Printed Implants for Drug Delivery via 3DPrint.com
The most interesting story I found this week about 3D printing explains a new method of delivering antibiotics and cancer treatment drugs using 3D printed implants. Researchers at Louisiana Tech University have used a Makerbot Replicator to print biodegradable implants using a filament infused with the medication.

3D printing allows the implant to be shaped in a way to provide even and efficient delivery of the medicine directly to the area of the body where it is needed. Delivery of the drugs directly where they are needed is more efficient and reduces side effects. The ability to make the implants on an inexpensive home printer has broad implications for creating personalized treatments anywhere in the world.

What is the most interesting 3D printing story you read this week?

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Curse of the Visionary

Clock via Pixabay
I have written often in this blog about the value of being able to predict the future and provided several suggestions on ways to develop predictive skills. Understanding nascent technologies and societal trends can boost your creativity, your career and your investments. But that vision comes with a price.

Any careful consideration of our current situation and possible paths forward can generate frustration and fear in several ways. I call these the curses of the visionary.

The Ability to See What Could Be


There is much wrong with the world that could be different if better decisions were made about the deployment of resources and technology.  Few voices in the media and even fewer in government seem to have a clear understanding of economics or psychology. When bad policy is destined to produce poor results, there is little joy in knowing that a little earlier than most people.

The Ability to See What Will Be


If you assemble a series of possible scenarios and try to assess the probability of each actually happening, many of those scenarios will be unpleasant. Our economy thrives on creative destruction and it is never totally clear which side of that destruction any one of us will land. Survival requires preparation for the most probable obstacles but obsessing on the risks leads to fear and doubt.

The Inevitability of Generating Anger


Those who are heavily invested in the status quo don't want to admit the necessity of a course change. Visionaries are far more likely to be greeted with laughter or rage than appreciation.

The cure for the curses of the visionary is action. Choose the path that appears to be the most probable route to success and get started. Action can change the future. Action is the perfect distraction from fear and frustration. And action leads us around the curve or over the hill where the path ahead is easier to see.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Titanium Aluminide in the News

3D Spinal Implant via 3DPrint.com
Titanium aluminide is not a material that is in the news every day. So when two news articles mention it in the same day, it is worth pointing out.

Titanium aluminide is an extremely strong and light material that is ideal for 3D printing aerospace components and orthopedic implants. These items are built up in layers by melting the metal powder using the Electron Beam Melting method perfected by Arcam AB.

The first article notes that the first 3D printed spinal vertebrae have been implanted in patients in China. This is a major medical breakthrough that can greatly help those suffering from spinal injuries or spinal degeneration.

In the second article, GE revealed that they will be using the alloy and Electron Beam Melting in the production of the turbine blades for their GEnx engine, used in Boeing’s Dreamliner and 747-8 aircraft.

These are fascinating stories and lead me to believe that we will be hearing a lot more about Arcam AB and titanium aluminide in the future.

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Shapeways Announces Full Color 3D Printing in Plastic

Success Kid by Ryan Kittleson, Kerbal Jebediah Kerman on IVA by Kerbal Space Program, and Bacon Mobius by Joaquin Baldwin
3D Plastic Parts by Shapeways
For the first time, full color 3D printing is available in a durable, functional plastic. The new service was announced Wednesday by Shapeways.

Shapeways describes the parts as "grainy" and that the process consists of an inkjet binder and a powder bed of plastic which implies strongly that the service uses 3D System's ColorJet technology. The service will initially be available to a select group of Pilot Designers to test the usefulness of the parts before rolling it out to Shapeway's entire customer base.

This is an important milestone in 3D printing and will open the doors to a much wider set of manufacturing applications.

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Can Design Have Integrity?

Integrity is one of the most important characteristics in a business partner, associate, even a customer. We want to work with people we can trust and rely upon. If integrity is important in a person, is it important to design?  Can design have integrity?

Dictionary.com defines integrity as an adherence to principles, honesty, the state of being whole, entire, sound and undiminished. I believe it is possible and essential for great design to live up to this definition.

Howard Roark, the heroic and visionary hero of Ayn Rand's Fountainhead followed these rules for architectural design:

What can be done with one substance must never be done with another. No two materials are alike. No two sites on earth are alike. No two buildings have the same purpose. The purpose, the site, the material determine the shape. Nothing can be reasonable or beautiful unless it's made by one central idea and the idea sets every detail. A building is alive, like a man. Its integrity is to follow its own truth, its one single theme, and to serve its own single purpose. 

These are important rules for mechanical designers to remember as we move into the age of additive manufacturing. 3D printers can build easily with materials that have been difficult or impossible to  shape with machine tools. They can create geometries that are impossible to produce with traditional machining processes. Those are the strengths of 3D printing that need to drive the creativity of the designer.

Direct Metal Laser Melted Part by GE
Direct Metal Laser Melted Part by GE
GE understands these principles and already has over 300 3D printers in operation. Using additive processes, they have been able to reduce the weight and improve the efficiency of their LEAP jet engines. GE projects that they will manufacture over 100,000 additive parts by 2020. 

What are your rules for design integrity?


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