I took down to London town to visit the 3D Printshow in the old Billingsgate fish market the other day and was joined a little later by Phil and we took the chance to see some fascinating developments which may, or may not, filter through to the domain of consumers in the future. It was a great blend of being able to walk away from the show with some products and to see some stuff which definitely isn't in the pocket money bracket as yet.
It was my first chance to have a play with the 3doodler (available from Maplins for £99.99) which is a handheld pen which feeds ABS or PLA rods through allowing you draw things in three dimensions. Some time back I though it may show some potential for creating trees so Phil and I are going to have an earnest attempt at that in due course.
I've had a bit more of a practice when back home but there's a way to go but I've learned a few techniques already.
I dropped by for a chat with Chris Thorpe of I can make who will be at RMweb Live next weekend. I can make are gearing up to the educational project market to make 3D printing more accessible to educationalists through a range of projects. As with many stands who weren't actually promoting their brand of printers Chris has an Ultimaker in use and this will be seen at RMweb Live creating a topical model, some components of which can be seen in this shot.
If someone fancies a minime on their layout it's now perfectly possible, my3Dtwin had a 360 degree photo booth which takes pics from all around and blends them together to create a 3D file which is then sent to a printer to produce a full colour figure available in a variety of scales (a 1/12th model would cost £120).
The same group of stands include Cadventure who offer training on use of the technology and included a rather nice section of trackwork used within a recent meeting.
Sculpteo.com offer a similar figure print service for around 85 Euros in full colour and this par wouldn't look out of place in a model railway show queue.
3D Modelling is obviously of interest to architectural modellers in visualising planned development and several nice examples were on display.
Shapeways as a marketing site and printing service had a significant presence and examples of models from different materials including various metals which are created via a lost wax process.
There were alternatives to Shapeways of course and 3DPrintUK provide a print bureau service that delivers some low cost options if you plan the prints well enough.
Stepping outside the back of Billingsgate for a breather there was a great view of the river which provided inspiration to some of the models shown on stands including 3D modelling using a soil and seed mix placed onto an absorbent bed to grow plants (intended for promotional floral displays) but if you could find a very short growing variety of grass there's a tool to make a diorama come alive!
Current printing technology and materials can be great for some items but the textured surface of plastics can be a a problem and even working to improve the finish can be hard work but we did see some great results via a resin printer which with some finishing work provided some fantastically smooth surfaces making locos and rolling stock more appealing whilst achieving some very fine detail.
The Formlabs Form 1+ resin printer is currently £2799 but I can see such technology becoming available at more competitive prices into the future.
The guys at Makerbot were really helpful in explaining the differences between their models and Hattons will be showing of the Makerbot replicator at RMweb Live next weekend if you want a closer look.
Matter and Form showed off an incredibly tidy 3D scanner for home use available for around £350 and shipped from the UK which has a scanning envelope of 120 x 120 x 160mm envelope and converts the input into an .stl file for sending to a printer. Potentially that could lead to abuse of design ownership but it's an interesting way to create masters and convert to digital form.
There were many printers for sales including build your own kits such as this from bq.com
Through to this £34,000 monster.......
For me the most fascinating item was a 3D paper printer from Mcor which prints with an ink which bleeds into the paper and feeds the sheet through for cutting and bonding of each sheet.
It takes about an hour to create around 6mm of height to the 3D model but it produces some fascinating models ready-coloured.
(That's what it's printing in the images above)
It would take an eternity but what a beautiful model of a station building could be made for example.
That's just a very brief overview of what was on show, the show finishes today but it's worth keeping an eye out for next year if you're interested in 3D printing.