What a start to 2012! Inspiring and exciting in the world of 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing. But while the debate continues apace about the future, and I love being a voice in that debate, I think it is also important to highlight the great things that are happening now — these technologies are doing great things and making a real difference with every week that passes.
iMaterialise in Belgium seems to be on a similar wavelength, and since the start of this year, each week we are treated to the week in 3D printing. I recommend it highly. (Although, top post today is a treat from 1989!)
The most touching 3D printing application story that has emerged this week, reported across many media channels, is the replacement of the lower jaw of an 83 year old woman, once again in Belgium. The replacement jaw implant was a complete success and the fact that it was 3D printed in medical grade titanium, with a bio ceramic coating brought advantages that included reduced surgery time and faster recovery. In addition, the implant was tailor-made to fit precisely reducing discomfort significantly, with the ability to talk, swallow and eat with 24 hours. How's that for making a real difference?
In terms of developments on the personal 3D printer front. I have only just discovered Makibox. Makible emerged last year as a crowd funding site for "makers and cool projects". Since the start of 2012, however, the team behind this project has launched, predictably on Makible (why wouldn't they), the Makibox DIY 3D printer. Frustrated in their efforts to build a Prusa RepRap kit, and logging their efforts, telling comments include: "it came in a few boxes with no concise instructions and literally was a box of parts." And: "the connections to the driver shield were confusing to even the competent engineers within the group." These frustrations are not uncommon and rather than whining about them, the team set about creating a new printer — one that overcomes these problems.
Another company that has done exactly the same thing, for exactly the same reason is A1 Technologies, based in London. A1 has long been an advocate of low-cost 3D digital technologies for designing and making in 3D, indeed they sold the very first low-cost commercial 3D printer — a RapMan kit — back in 2009 and have built up an impressive portfolio of low-cost advanced technologies for 3D input & output that can all be integrated. As a distributor of low-cost 3D Printers (RepRap derivatives) with a wealth of experience and expertise, A1 has been vividly aware of the frustrations of assembling a 3D printer that would then go on to print parts reliably and consistently (or not). They looked around at the emerging different options, from a distributor perspective, and decided to take their philosophy of designing and making to heart. The result is the Maxit 3D printer, which has been designed, developed and constructed to overcome all of the issues A1 faced daily. The printer will be launched within the next few weeks as a crowd funded project for the first 100 machines.
What strikes me about these two projects the most? People that believe in 3D printing, identifying some of the current problems, and actually taking the challenge on, directly, to move forwards. Positive innovation driven by negative experience.