3D Printing at Maker Faire


In New York last month at the Inside 3D Printing conference we saw a few of the more exotic 3D printing technologies — the Form 1 using stereolithography, and MCor’s full color paper-based printer. But the vast majority of the printers on display used plastic filament and were built on the same basic design. You read about 3D printers for chocolatepizza, and even human organs. I wanted to see something like that. And if you can’t find that at a 3D printing conference, where else can you go?

Maker Faire in the Bay Area last weekend was a different story. The section on 3D printing — a tiny part of the entire event — was bigger than what we saw in New York. And even more 3D printers were scattered throughout the exhibition hall. There were some delightful variations.

  • A team from Berkeley demonstrated 3D printing with sawdust or cement.
  • The SandBox fuses thin layers of sand to create objects. The unfused sand acts as support so any geometry can be created and there’s no need for extra support structures. This mimics a property of the much more expensive SLS (selective laser sintering) technology
  • Fred White showed off his soon-to-be-on-Kickstarter Apex 3D printer head. It can print six separate filaments or fluids simultaneously. As he pointed out, you could print a teacup and fill it with tea in one pass.
  • Oleksiy Pikalo has a 3D printer that can draw patterns in carmel in the foam of your latte. He’s working on a version that will work for beer.
  • And the Serpentine 3D printer, designed by architecture students, uses clay to rapidly create structures.

Plastic printers like the MakerBot are definitely the mainstream of home 3D printing, but it’s exciting to see the variety of what is possible.

If you’ve never been to Maker Faire I highly recommend it. This was the first time I’ve gone and it’s difficult to express just how enormous it is. The event spills out of massive exhibit halls and fills the surrounding acres of lots. 120,000 people attended, and thousands of makers and artists were showing off their inventions and creativity.

It was completely overwhelming. Amazing, but more than anyone could possibly absorb in a weekend. I can’t wait for the next one.

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