Thursday, 30 January 2014 16:06

3D Printing for the Masses

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CES 2014, Las Vegas, NV - We're all hearing a lot of buzz about the world of 3D printing.  It really is a remarkable technology, one of those few that come along that really do have the potential to change the world.  The ability to create parts on demand, choosing from thousands (or potentially millions) of patterns and several different materials, both conductive and non-conductive with a single machine makes that potential obvious.  If that machine is coupled with (or includes) a 3D scanner, the potential is even higher.  The 3D printer's versatility is what has created all the buzz.  From simple basic plastic shapes to functional firearms to human organs, the technology is incredible. 


For all its wonder, until recently I've been watching the tech the same way I watch innovations in space science: from afar with and with that wistfulness reserved for rockets and military-grade lasers.  As amazing as they were, they would always be out of my reach.  That is all changing.

While I was walking the show floor at CES earlier this month I happened to see a sign posted high above the crowd: 3D printing starting at $499.  Yes, you read that figure right.  That sign drew me to their display area quickly.  I spoke with Allie Marsh of the New Kinpo Group, owner of XYZ Printing, about their da Vinci 1.0 printer.  She confirmed the sign was not a typo .  They had one of their da Vinci units functioning at the time so I got the chance to watch it do its thing and it's an impressive little unit.  

da Vinci 1

Though it was hard to tell in the general roar of the showroom, the da Vinci seemed to be a very quiet machine, and is small enough to be easily used in a small shop setting.  The printing area is a 7.8-inch cube, fully enclosed, which will help with contamination of the end product and safety for the user.  A FFF-based unit (fused filament fabrication), the da Vinci uses proprietary cartridges,  has a .4mm nozzle and can print at resolutions as high as 100 microns.  XYZ has also already established a database of thousands of printable models, making it even better for the beginner or hobbyist.

da Vinci 2

During our talk, Allie also told me that while the da Vinci currently uses ABS as its source material, an upcoming firmware update will allow the use of PLA as well.  There are advantages to both, so having the option to use either will be another excellent feature for the consumer.   When it ships in mid-March it will reach the end user fully assembled and factory adjusted, making it truly a plug-and-play solution.  

Even if I never get my hands on one of their units, I’d like to thank the folks at XYZ Printing.  I love those moments when a technology or an object that you had thought forever beyond your grasp is suddenly within reach.  I’ve wanted a hobby laser for a long time and the best price I can find on what I would consider a decent unit is still upwards of three thousand dollars.  I suppose I’ll be printing before I’m cutting with light.  

Edit: After my interview with XYZ Printing, in doing research for this article I was surprised to find several different models of 3D printers available from various sources for this price or even a little lower.  I can’t speak of any details on those units obviously, and for the negligible price difference I would go with the da Vinci, simply because I’ve seen it operate and I know what it can do and how well it can do it.  Your mileage may vary.

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Read 6174 times Last modified on Friday, 31 January 2014 16:04

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