Sep 15, 2014 | By Christopher Barnatt*

From 4th to 6th September, London played host to its third 3D Printshow. As in previous years, the event featured a wide range of hardware, plus a gallery of 3D printed art and fashion. 3D scanning was also very much in evidence, with the first public outing of the desktop Matter and Form 3D Scanner, as well as a large stand on which FUEL3D were demonstrating their handheld 3D scanning device. Also attracting significant attention were the new '3D Printshow Kitchen', and a real racing car from Strakka Racing that featured some 3D printed end use parts. You can get a flavour of the Printshow in my first video report below.

Given the scale and scope of the event, it is inevitable that most visitors focused their attention on certain exhibits. For me, these were largely the newest 3D printers, including the Printrbot Simple Metal (which is very solid and looks stunning in white), the CubePro from 3D Systems, the beautifully presented Robox, and the Form1+, which now delivers desktop stereolithography at twice the speed of the first Form Labs model.

Printrbot Simple Metal

The new Robox desktop 3D printer

Talking of speed, also at the event were 3D printing technology developer Create it REAL, who were demonstrating their new 3D printer electronics. This circuitry can potentially be fitted to a wide range of desktop material extrusion (FDM) 3D printers to increase speed by 4 or 5 times. To prove the point, Create it REAL had an original Ultimaker attached to their electronics, and were printing objects so rapidly that you could actually see them grow! Also featuring the new Create it REAL electronics were DYNAMO3D with their D3D ONE-EVO printers, and which again were printing objects very quickly indeed.

D3D ONE-EVO 3D printers with 'Create it REAL' high speed electronics

Of all the innovations featured at the Printshow, the new Create it REAL electronics were in my view the most significant for low-cost desktop 3D printing, as potentially this hardware could be adopted by many different manufacturers. And even if not, it is good to know that the potential exists to speed up 3D printing with changes to the electronics alone.

Something that nobody at the show could miss was the giant Big Rep ONE. Launched in March 2014, this has a build volume of 1147 x 1000 x 1188 mm, so allowing very large objects to be created. Highlighting the potential, next to the printer was an orange table that it had made. Looking at the Big Rep ONE, I found myself musing that 3D printers just like it may end up at the heart of more-self-sustaining local communities in a future world in which globalization is on the wain.

Big Rep One 3D printer

Of potentially less critical application were the food printers in the 3D Printshow Kitchen. These included the soon-to-launch Choc Creator V2 from Choc Edge, and a foldable 3D printer from By Flow. The latter features interchangeable print heads to allow it to 3D print a wide range of edible and non-edible materials. This said, the food printer that most held my attention was the FoodForm from the pioneering Spanish research group Robots in Gastronomy. This has been developed to extrude edible build materials onto any surface, including a hot grill or frying pan. At the Printshow, the FoodForm was shown 3D printing onto an anti-griddle chilled to minus 30 degrees centigrade. Experimenting with the FoodForm, Robots in Gastronomy have already managed to 3D print using bread and cookie doughs, chocolate, honey, cheese, ice cream, cheesecake, and various frostings.

The FoodForm 3D printer from Robots in Gastronomy

While all of the above -- and far more -- were amazing exhibits, my personal highlight was getting to see an operational Objet500 Connex3. This 2014 Stratasys creation is currently the only 3D printer in the world that can build multi-material objects in colour. Using its 'PolyJet' material jetting process, the Objet500 Connex3 creates object layers by spraying a photopolymer resin from an inkjet-style print head, with the liquid then set solid with UV light. Thanks to its triple jetting technology, the printer can output up to three base resins, including Digital ABS, Rubber-like and Simulated Polypropylene. These base resins can also be combined during printout, so allowing up to 82 materials to be included in a single print job. Print quality from the Objet500 Connex3 is amazing, and it would be nice to think that a low cost version of this kind of technology will arrive on the desktop sometime soon. Well, we can all dream!

Objet500 Connex3 with top open

Strakka racing car with 3D printed end use parts

All images credit: Christopher Barnatt

You can see more of some of the above printers in my second video report from the 3D Printshow below.


*Christopher Barnatt is a futurist, academic, and author of 3D Printing: The Next Industrial Revolution.



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