So much is happening in the world of 3D printing. Social media tools and staying in touch with my contact network are great for keeping abreast of all the latest developments — I love that aspect of my work. But perhaps the thing I love the most is getting different pieces of the puzzle and fitting them together in a bid to establish a clear picture. I remember when (I sound like my Grandma) getting one significant announcement for the next issue of TCT was a big deal. Right now the announcements are coming thick and fast and 3D printing is going viral.
Thanks to a fabulous video from ZCorporation this week, which was posted on YouTube [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZboxMsSz5Aw] 3.5 million people (and counting) have watched 3D printing in action. While the 3D printing process itself is quite clearly the central focus (hurrah), it is almost certainly the enthusiasm of David Kaplan, Theoretical Physicist at John Hopkins University, that has caused the video to go viral. The way he encapsulates the "wow" factor of 3D printing on film is definitely contagious. I, like many other 3D printing ambassadors, (that's what I am apparently) have seen the wow factor expressed when explaining the process to someone for the first time. It's always a great moment. But while we are able to share these experiences, and enjoy the knowledge that one more person has discovered the potential of 3DP, it is a hard one to convey with words alone — spoken or written. The fact that ZCorp has caught this on film and shared it, is momentous. Every single convert to 3DP is a valuable asset to the industry, but to be introducing, and possibly converting, millions in one hit is truly a watershed moment. It doesn't even stop there. The success of the video has seen numerous news crews gaining access to ZCorp's facilities and reporting on the technology.
The other three notable announcements recently are much more process development oriented.
First, a collaborative research project between the University of Exeter, the University of Brunel and Delcam software has resulted in a 3D printer producing chocolate products. Although not commercially available yet, the premise is that this easy to learn and use printer will appeal to a mass market, with future plans to introduce other materials for consumer products such as jewellery and accessories. I am looking forward to the time that I can replace my chocolate fountain centre-piece with a chocolate 3D printer. Naive & overly optimistic? Possibly.
Another significant development has come from quality 3D printing service provider i.materialise in Belgium. Users of the service are now able to get their designs printed in gold and/or silver. This has been in development for some time, but it is just fantastic to see these popular and sought after materials available for consumers via a 3D printer. This will definitely up the ante for 3D printing within the jewellery sector. I know what will be on my Christmas list this year.
Solar energy is currently a hot topic, and it has collided — fairly spectacularly — with the 3D printing sector. Markus Kayser has released information on his Solar Sinter project, which "explores the potential of desert manufacturing, where energy and material occur in abundance." Using the sun (in the Sahara Desert) as the energy source and the bountiful sand available at this location as the raw material, his 3D printer is based on the the sintering process. [http://www.markuskayser.com/]. The potential here is vast, but right now I am just loving the office space.
And finally, this made me laugh yesterday morning. Naughty, but funny!!