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Ewloe, United Kingdom
Writing, tweeting, debating and occasionally getting a little over-excited about 3D Printing. But always aiming to keep it real!

Tuesday 7 February 2012

Jaws & Other 3D Printing News

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. 


  1. I'll need to take a look at the A1 product. Always liked that company and had a good long chat with them at TCT last year. Maybe it is the Scot in me that likes the thought of having a 3D printer, haptic feedback modeller and 3D scanner for under a grand (as was the offer at TCT)!

    They do a nice line in CNC mills as well...

    I wonder how many people bought cheap Rep_Rap based machines and have moved on to something better now? Might be interesting to find out if there are many lying unused in corners of offices...what is no longer good enough for business may be ideal for education....donate a Rep-Rap?

  2. I'm with you there Kevin, A1 is a good company with good ethics and great aims for education, as well as wider adoption of 3D tech. Fabulous idea on the donate a RepRap - love it!

  3. I'd also suggest the same with old workstations. I'm a school governor of a large primary school next door to the office and their budget for IT and capital expenditure has been slashed to 20% of previous levels (and it wasn't good then!). We are now being forced to look at bulk ex lease equipment as a way of upgrading 7 or 8 year old stock. I had a couple of old P4 workstations gathering dust in the corner of the office and happened to mention this - and they bit my hand off for them. I'm sure other design/engineering/AEC businesses have similar equipment? Contact your local school, see if they are interested.

  4. The story of the replacement jaw is what intrigued me the most. The possibilities are literally endless for 3D printing, aren't they?

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