Greg's Bite: Desktop 3D printing
TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Greg's Bite: Desktop 3D printing

By Greg Mills

As I have previously speculated in this column, I consider the desktop 3D plastic part printing revolution fertile ground for being one of Apple's next big things. I think Apple is uniquely situated to do for 3D printing what they did for desktop printing on paper 20 years ago.

3D printing is using a computer to create physical objects from software files utilizing a special 3D "printer." Star Trek's "replicators" were sophisticated voice-controlled, computer operated 3D printing devices, able to reproduce just about anything.  Replicator devices were as common aboard the starship Enterprise as microwave ovens are to us. Imagine the forerunner of such a futuristic device sitting on your desk and hooked up to your Mac or iPad.

References to cool new things in the R&D labs at Apple seldom give us enough information to do anything more than make our imaginations soar.  In the absence of actual tips on what is going on behind the doors at Apple, one can only speculate based upon historical information and synergy with what is known. This is speculation, based upon Apple doing what is cool, developing markets where they have synergy and making money with a combination of hardware, operating software, consumables and an on-line store for selling and buying part files. 

As an inventor, I have built numerous prototypes of my proposed products. I have had a number of original plastic parts made over the years. These parts were created with what is called "rapid prototyping" technology.  

This is a prototyping process that is very common in engineering and R&D labs where a 3D rendering is created on a computer and the output file is called "STL format." Software such as "SolidWorks" creates object files that are used with stereolithography or 3D printers.  

Stereolithography is one system of the two types of systems for creating 3D parts. 3D printing is another. In a nutshell, in stereolithography there is a tank, sort of like an aquarium, full of transparent liquid resin. Two laser beams from two directions converge at a point inside the tank. The two laser beams, at the point where they converge, create heat. Heat makes the liquid resin harden. If a computer continuously aims the beams and moves them around very precisely a physical plastic object can be thus constructed, one layer at a time.

3D printing amounts to something similar to an inkjet printer, but the ink is a plastic filament fed off a spool, and the print head heats the plastic to melt it to adhere what is already laid down in previous layers. Colored plastic can be used to create colored parts. Perhaps a multicolor head could allow an advanced 3D printer to create colorful parts without stopping to change the color the printer is putting out.  

Typical of technology Apple feels is right for commercial development, 3D printers have begun to move from being an engineering device that costs $50,000 and up, to hobby devices that are selling on eBay for $500.  

The problems in the developing 3D printer market are that:

1. 3D part creation software isn't even close to Apple simple. I have checked out software that can be used to design and print plastic 3D parts and it is both relatively expensive with a considerable learning curve. While the Mac can run the 3D software, it really takes either a class or a lot of learning to get part design down pat. Apple is the master of making hard software easy and intuitive. Apple software that will make 3D part designing easy and drive 3D printers would be a very Apple-like thing to do.
  
2.The current crop of 3D printing devices aren't designed to the point you just take them out of the carton, plug them into an electrical outlet, hook up a USB or Thunderbolt cord to your computer and load software to get it working. This is something Apple could do well. Apple 3D printers might come in two or three sizes and use proprietary cartridges of the plastic material. 

3 The supply chain for 3D printers and the consumable plastic material isn't well developed yet. Apple would sell the printer, the software that drives the printer and the spools of plastic on-line and at Apple stores around the world.  

4. While one could create their own original parts using the software, stock files for common parts could be bought and sold on-line. Ready-to-use 3D files for parts really need an on-line "store" to create a vast library of files that would drive sales of both the printers and the consumable plastic fiber. You want to print a chess set?  Go on line and choose the style of the chess set you like, select the size pieces you want, download the file and fire up your 3D printer. 3D part files could be free or sold as downloads with Apple and the software author sharing the money, just like books or apps.  

5. Cool multicolor printers need to be developed for the market to really take off.  A low enough price point for 3D printers would drive hobby use of the devices as well as commercial engineering use.

Once you have printed your original part, silicone molds and two part plastic kits would allow you to pour your own molds and then pour your own plastic parts cheaply.  

That is Greg's Bite. 

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Minecraft 302 - Popular sandbox building...
Minecraft allows players to build constructions out of textured cubes in a 3D procedurally generated world. Other activities in the game include exploration, gathering resources, crafting, and combat... Read more
FotoMagico 5.2b8 - Powerful slideshow cr...
FotoMagico lets you create professional slideshows from your photos and music with just a few, simple mouse clicks. It sports a very clean and intuitive yet powerful user interface. High image... Read more
TeamViewer 11.0.65452 - Establish remote...
TeamViewer gives you remote control of any computer or Mac over the Internet within seconds, or can be used for online meetings. Find out why more than 200 million users trust TeamViewer! Free for... Read more
Dropbox 9.4.49 - Cloud backup and synchr...
Dropbox is an application that creates a special Finder folder that automatically syncs online and between your computers. It allows you to both backup files and keep them up-to-date between systems... Read more
Geekbench 4.0.0 - Measure processor and...
Geekbench provides a comprehensive set of benchmarks engineered to quickly and accurately measure processor and memory performance. Designed to make benchmarks easy to run and easy to understand,... Read more
Nisus Writer Pro 2.1.5 - Multilingual wo...
Nisus Writer Pro is a powerful multilingual word processor, similar to its entry level products, but brings new features such as table of contents, indexing, bookmarks, widow and orphan control,... Read more
Default Folder X 5.0.6 - Enhances Open a...
Default Folder X attaches a toolbar to the right side of the Open and Save dialogs in any OS X-native application. The toolbar gives you fast access to various folders and commands. You just click on... Read more
Alfred 3.1 - Quick launcher for apps and...
Alfred is an award-winning productivity application for OS X. Alfred saves you time when you search for files online or on your Mac. Be more productive with hotkeys, keywords, and file actions at... Read more
MYStuff Pro 2.0.25 - Create inventories...
MYStuff Pro is the most flexible way to create detail-rich inventories for your home or small business. Add items to MYStuff by dragging and dropping existing information, uploading new images, or... Read more
OmniOutliner Pro 4.6 - Pro version of th...
OmniOutliner Pro is a flexible program for creating, collecting, and organizing information. Give your creativity a kick start by using an application that's actually designed to help you think. It's... Read more

Lifeline: Crisis Line (Games)
Lifeline: Crisis Line 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
BLUK (Games)
BLUK 1.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.1 (iTunes) Description: ** ‘Upcoming Game of the Year’ Finalist at NGF Awards 2015 ** ** ‘Big Indie Pitch’ Nominee at Pocket Gamer Connects 2016... | Read more »
Six! Tips, tricks, and hints for beginne...
There's nothing pretentious about Six!, the latest release from Gram Games. As puzzlers go, it's so unassuming that it took me some time to even realize why it was called what it was. Somewhere, my high school geometry teacher is now sobbing... | Read more »
Mobius Final Fantasy: Multiplayer update...
Up until now, Mobius Final Fantasy has been about as single-player an experience as an RPG can be. Not only do you play solo, but you are literally one among a seemingly unending wave of faceless warriors on the road toward the same goal. [Read... | Read more »
Find out the story behind League of Ange...
If you’re looking for a new thrilling MMORPG to play with your friends then you’ll be excited to hear that there is a sequel to one of the most well known titles in the genre – namely League of Angels 2. With a brand new 3D engine offering... | Read more »
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Blazing...
I'm not sure if it's possible to say you are an anime fan but also never have seen one episode of Naruto. If it is, then I resemble that remark, and if not, I offer a hearty apology. [Read more] | Read more »
5 mobile games that let you explore spac...
No Man's Sky hasn't exactly turned out to be everything it was promised. Though its core concept of exploring an unimaginably vast universe of different planets is an intriguing one, the execution has left many PS4 and PC gamers feeling like they... | Read more »
Mummy madness in new action game Tomb He...
Hot on the tail of Bump Hero, ZPlay is giving gamers another reason to get screen bashing with a brand new release. Tomb Heroes is a challenging action game in which you battle enemies in various tombs around the world. You can select from nine... | Read more »
Siralim 2 (RPG / Roguelike) (Games)
Siralim 2 (RPG / Roguelike) 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Siralim 2 is an old-school monster catching RPG. Summon and customize hundreds of creatures to fight for you as... | Read more »
Clean Text (Productivity)
Clean Text 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Productivity Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

That Upgrade Itch; How Often Do You Upgrade Y...
I have a quandary to resolve as we head into what is typically a major Apple product upgrade season. My mid-2013 MacBook Air will be three years old and my iPad Air 2 will be two come late November.... Read more
Apple refurbished 12-inch iPad Pros available...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 12″ iPad Pros available for up to $160 off the cost of new iPads. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: - 32GB 12″ iPad Pro... Read more
Tim Cook Posts Open Letter To The Apple Commu...
Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook has posted an open letter commenting on the European Commission’s bizarre demand that Apple pay more than $14 billion in allegedly underpaid back taxes on its Irish... Read more
Streetwise Drivers Club App Now Features Open...
Streetwise Drivers Club, an app that rewards drivers with deals on everything from dining and gift cards to tires and insurance, has announced the launch of a new enhancement connecting app users... Read more
15-inch Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to...
B&H Photo has 15″ Retina Apple MacBook Pros on sale for up to $200 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $1799 $200 off MSRP - 15″ 2.5GHz... Read more
RESCUECOM 2016 Semi-Annual Computer Reliabili...
The beginning of a new school year is upon us again, in which students and parents have some very important choices to make, often including the purchase of a computer or tablet. Whether you are... Read more
VRS Design Damda Glide Series iPhone 7 and 7...
What makes the Damda Glide Series for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus special? Case maker VRS Design says its Damda Glide Series is the first mobile case to incorporate a semi-automatic mechanism for... Read more
Apple refurbished iMacs available for up to $...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 21″ & 27″ iMacs available for up to $350 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free. The following models are available: - 21″ 3.... Read more
Clearance 2015 13-inch MacBook Airs available...
B&H Photo has clearance 2015 13″ MacBook Airs available for $350 off original MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 13″ 1.6GHz/4GB/128GB MacBook Air (MJVE2LL/A): $829... Read more
Check Apple prices on any device with the iTr...
MacPrices is proud to offer readers a free iOS app (iPhones, iPads, & iPod touch) and Android app (Google Play and Amazon App Store) called iTracx, which allows you to glance at today’s lowest... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions Norfolk,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions- Tampa,...
Job Description:SalesSpecialist - Retail Customer Service and SalesTransform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
SW Engineer *Apple* TV - Apple Inc. (United...
The Apple TV team is looking for excellent software engineers with experience in hardware, media management, media playback, content delivery and a passion for Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Apple (United...
Apple Solutions ConsultantJob Number: 51218534Pleasant Hill, California, United StatesPosted: Aug. 18, 2016Weekly Hours: 40.00Job SummaryAs an Apple Solutions Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Apple (United...
# Apple Solutions Consultant Job Number: 51218354 Fredericksburg, Virginia, United States Posted: Aug. 18, 2016 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Summary** As an Apple Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.