3D printer developer

3D Printing For Designers And Developers

3D printing is not a new technology, but recent advances in several fields have made it more accessible to hobbyists and businesses. Compared to other tech sectors, it’s still a small industry, but most analysts agree it has a lot of potential. But where is the potential for freelance designers and software engineers?

A fellow Toptaler asked me this a couple of weeks ago, because I used to cover 3D printing for a couple of publications. I had no clear answer. I couldn’t just list business opportunities because this is a niche industry with a limited upside and mass market appeal. What’s more, 3D printing is still not a mature technology, which means there is not a lot in the way of standardisation and online resources for designers and developers willing to take the plunge.

However, this does not mean there are no business opportunities; they’re out there, but they are limited. In this post, I will try to explain what makes the 3D printing industry different, and what freelancers can expect moving forward.

3D Printing For Hobbyists And Businesses

First of all, I think we need to distinguish between two very different niches in the 3D printing, or additive manufacturing industry.

On one end of the spectrum, you have countless hardware enthusiasts, software developers and designers working on open-source projects. The RepRap project embodies this lean and open approach better than any similar initiative in the industry. RepRap stands for Replicating Rapid Prototyper and it’s basically an initiative to develop inexpensive printers based on fused filament fabrication (FFF) technology. Essentially, that is Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) technology, but RepRap can’t use that name because it was commercialised by Stratasys. When the company’s patent on FDM expired, FDM was embraced by the open-source community, albeit under a different name.

3D printing is not a new technology, but recent advances in several fields have made it more accessible to hobbyists and businesses.


RepRap turned ten this year, with the first printers showing up a few years after launch. By 2010, the RepRap project was on its third generation design, and the RepRap community saw a lot of growth over the next few years.

One noteworthy feature to come out of the RepRap initiative is self-replication; the ultimate goal of the project is to create a 3D printer that will eventually replicate itself. We are not there yet, but some RepRap designs allow users to print three quarters of the printer. You still can’t print extruders and electric servos, but it’s a start.

However, RepRap was never supposed to be a commercial success. It was created as a tech-first initiative, so it was never consumer-centric. It was all about pioneering various technologies and bringing them to the hobbyist market at low cost. RepRap was never supposed to be a cash cow.

So what about big business? A number of industry pioneers have already become 3D printing heavyweights. These include Stratasys, 3D Systems, Ultimaker and Printbot. RepRap printers still command a big market share, and they’re not being squeezed out by proprietary platforms. In fact, most vendors have no choice but to embrace some RepRap standards in order to guarantee compatibility.

However, simply listing 3D printing companies and their respective market share does not paint the full picture. For example, RepRap is limited to FFF technology, which is the most widespread 3D printing technology today. The problem is that FFF printers have a lot of limitations, which means they cannot be used in many industries.

Different Technologies For Different Applications

To get a better idea of what’s out there, we need to take a look at currently available 3D printing technologies. This might not seem interesting if you’re not a hardware geek, but it’s important to understand the difference between various printing technologies (and I will try to keep this section as brief as possible).

Although hobbyist FFF printers are relatively inexpensive, certain types of professional 3D printers can cost as much as your home.


  • FFF/FDM usually relies on thermoplastic “filament” heated by the printer extruder prior to being deposited on the print bed. Most FFF printers rely on ABS and PLA plastic filament, but the latest models also use polycarbonate (PC), high-density polyethylene (HDPE), high-impact polystyrene (HIPS) filament. Some even use metal wire instead of plastic, while others use sawdust to create quasi-wood objects. Some can even print food, chocolate, pasta and so on.

  • Granular printers are different beasts since their material is not filament but, usually, powdered metal. These printers tend to be based on laser technology (although they don’t have much in common with your office laser printer). They use a powerful laser to selectively fuse granular materials. There are several ways of doing this: Selective laser sintering (SLS) printers fuse small metal particles by the process of “sintering,” while selective laser melting (SLM) printers melt the powder. Electron beam melting (EBM) printers hits metal powder with an electron beam in a vacuum environment

  • Stereolithography (SLA) printers transform liquid raw material into solids using light. These printers have a number of advantages, in terms of accuracy and the ability to produce complex objects in a single pass, because SLA prints don’t require struts or supports, in most cases. The downside is that the choice of materials is very limited. They are usually exotic liquid polymers, and can’t be used to print metal or chocolate.

There are a few more 3D printing technologies out there, but I see no point in covering all of them for the purposes of this blog post.

The Challenge

So why aren’t we all playing around with 3D printers in our homes and offices? Why can’t we print objects the same way we print invoices, sheets and emails? 3D printing is not going mainstream any time soon, and here are some challenges and issues that need to be addressed first.

  • Prohibitively expensive hardware
  • Limited user base (compared to traditional printers)
  • Immature technology
  • Speed
  • Price/performance, ROI
  • Running costs
  • Energy efficiency

With each new generation, entry-level 3D printers become a bit cheaper, but they are still too expensive for most potential users. It’s one thing to buy a $200 printer for your home or office, you’ll probably end up using it a lot, but the same isn’t necessarily true of 3D printers. How many people need to print documents, and how many need to print 3D objects?

Technology is improving, but serious limitations persist. 3D printers are still slow, are sensitive to all sorts of adverse conditions, their “printbeds” tend to be small (especially on inexpensive models), the choice of materials is limited and filament can be expensive.

The reason why businesses aren’t lining up to buy 3D printers is simple: ROI. 3D printers still can’t come close to traditional manufacturing methods in terms of speed, cost and energy efficiency. This does not mean industry isn’t going to shift to 3D printing in the future; we are already seeing some pioneering developments, but 3D printers won’t render traditional manufacturing techniques obsolete soon.

Still, there are some noteworthy exceptions. A couple of years ago, General Electric set out to design and build a new fuel injection nozzle for its next generation CFM LEAP turbofan engine, which is bound to end up in hundreds of airliners. GE eventually settled on 3D-printed titanium nozzles. The reason? The new 3D printed nozzle ended up 25 percent lighter than the previous design and consisted of a single part instead of 18 on the old nozzle. Durability is expected to be five times better. These nozzles will be used in engines manufactured in 2016 and beyond. GE hopes to produce more than 100,000 3D-printed parts by the end of the decade.

A team of GE engineers decided to create a working replica of one of the company’s engines, using a new granular printing technique dubbed “metal laser melting.

Long story short, no, you won’t buy 3D-printed toys for $2 anytime soon, but you will fly on airliners powered by more efficient and reliable engines, made possible by 3D printing. There won’t be any 3D-printed chocolate in your local mall, at least not yet, but your dentist will tell you it’s probably not a good idea to eat chocolate anyway, right after you get your 3D-printed prosthetic.

There Is Another Way: 3D Printing Fulfilment Services

So, you have a great idea for a product, but first you need a small series of prototypes. Who do you call? Do you buy a bunch of 3D printers? Or do you simply send the design to a fulfilment service that will ship you the completed models in a matter of days?

Fulfilment services allow consumers and small businesses to take advantage of sophisticated 3D printing infrastructure without burning capital.


A 3D printing fulfilment service seems like a hassle-free choice, and that’s the direction the industry seems to be taking. Many 3D printing outfits have launched similar services and are collaborating with other industry leaders. One example of this symbiotic relationship is Stratasys Direct Express, which recently partnered with Adobe and enabled Photoshop CC integration, offering colour 3D printing for professional designers.

Google and Motorola didn’t invest billions in their own 3D printing facilities when they unveiled the Ara modular smartphone concept. They outsourced module manufacturing to 3D Systems. This example also underscores the potential flexibility of additive manufacturing: Ara is based around an alloy exoskeleton filled with various standardised modules that could be 3D printed. Since the modules have to connect to the exoskeleton, 3D Systems developed a new technique of depositing conductive materials within the printed components, which is a far cry from traditional 3D printer prototyping.

3D fulfilment services usually offer several different printing technologies, cutting-edge hardware and support. Why bother getting a $2,000 printer when you can simply send your designs to professionals and use any of a variety of professional printers, some of which cost more than your home? And let’s not forget about economy of scale; big services can and should offer a superior price/performance ratio compared to in-house printing.

In my opinion, this is the way to go. This straightforward business model has a lot going for it, and it’s hard to see how individuals and small businesses could compete on an even playing field. In terms of price, size and energy consumption, a professional 3D printer has more in common with a printing press than your LaserJet, and how many people need a printing press in their home or office?

(One of my pet peeves is the name itself. When you mention a “printer” in conversation, most people think of their home inkjet printer, or office printer. While it’s true that 3D printers are printers, they don’t have much in common with traditional printers, and this distinction is often lost on laymen. If we just kept calling them additive manufacturing machines, this wouldn’t be an issue.)

What does all this mean for the average visual designer or software engineer? Will 3D printing change the way we do business? Will it enable rapid prototyping or even cheap small-scale manufacturing? When are we going to cook up some 3D-printed Barilla pasta for lunch?

I am afraid there is no simple answer because you can look at it from several perspectives. It all depends on your personal affinities and goals.

There are a few different ways designers and developers might become involved in 3D printing:

  • Participation in open-source initiatives (RepRap)
  • Use of professional design tools (Adobe CC)
  • Integration of printing functionality to applications (Autodesk’s Spark 3D printing platform)
  • Use of 3D printing fulfilment services
  • Integration of 3D printing fulfilment services

Most open-source initiatives are geared toward individual, hobbyist users. They are also valuable for education, and they can foster a lot of innovation. The downside is that there’s not a lot of money to be made in this niche. It’s mostly a labour of love. The good news is that the bar is set pretty low; you can get an entry-level printer and loads of plastic filament for under $500. You can get a cheap and relatively good 3D printer for the price of a good smartphone.

Integration of 3D design and printing capabilities could prove more lucrative in the long run. Designers don’t have to go out of their way to experiment with 3D printing because it’s already accessible through leading software packages. Sooner or later, a client will start asking questions about 3D printed prototypes or small-scale production, so depending on your niche, it could be a good idea to do a bit of research.

We’re left with the elephant in the room: 3D printing fulfilment services.

Outsourcing 3D Printing Via The Cloud

On the face of it, fulfilment services seem to be the answer to everything. They put professional services within the reach of individuals, startups, and small businesses who otherwise couldn’t afford certain printing techniques, like laser sintering or stereolithography. They’re practically the only viable way of integrating 3D printing into a range of different services, mainly through cloud-based mobile and web apps.

So what are the downsides? There aren’t many.

Industrial scale fulfilment services are a relatively new concept. However, availability is still limited. Sure, if you need to print a few dozen titanium prototypes in California that won’t be a problem, but what if you need to do the exact same thing in Botswana or Bahrain? It will be more expensive because the manufactured designs will have to be shipped around the globe. On-site manufacturing sounds good, but it could prove prohibitively expensive

Of course, on-site manufacturing has a lot going for it; if a business needs to quickly iterate and revise designs, then the speed and convenience of 3D printer rapid prototyping can’t be matched by printing services. This is a relatively tight niche, but it’s by no means small. Design studios, architects, engineers, various maintenance departments, logistics, education; they all need on-site printers. Besides, if you need a printed replacement part on the International Space Station, you can’t exactly call Amazon. On another note, 3D printing in space would have made the exploits of the Apollo 13 crew look less impressive. No wonder NASA is already experimenting with them in space.

It’s worth noting that 3D printers can be used to print more than replacement parts and passive components. They can also be used to print working electrical components, ranging from speakers to printed circuit boards (PCB). PCB prototyping is a nice niche because traditional methods are slow and expensive. A 3D printer with a spool of conductive filament can usually do the trick on-site, on time, and on budget.

Still, as far as mass market applications go, chances are this space will be dominated by big players like Amazon, Stratasys, 3D Systems, and possibly Hewlett-Packard. As the industry matures, worldwide availability should become a non-issue, prices will go down and new hardware will offer new opportunities and superior quality.

In my opinion, the biggest problem the industry currently faces is the lack of use-cases. Sure, it sounds convenient, but who is it for? How do we get 3D-printed products into the hands of mainstream consumers?

This question is not as straightforward as it seems because additive manufacturing has been hyped in recent years. Just try googling for 3D printing use-cases and you’ll see what I mean: 3D printing seems to be the answer to all our problems, but in reality most of it is hype, based on long-term projections.

So, I decided to include research from an unbiased source: UK’s Intellectual Property Office. The paper, titled The Current Status and Impact of 3D Printing Within the Industrial Sector: An Analysis of Six Case Studies is extensive and examines the potential impact of additive manufacturing on several industries: automotive, domestic appliances, replacement parts, customised goods, reverse engineering, games and computer generated graphics.

Customised goods and CGI-derived designs stand out as the most realistic use cases for freelancers, so let’s take a closer look.

Personalised Manufacturing

One of the biggest advantages of additive manufacturing over traditional manufacturing methods is the ability to produce one-off designs or small series. How long would it take to create a plastic toy using traditional manufacturing? You’d need loads of equipment, cast dies and whatnot. With 3D printing, it’s just a matter of selecting a wireframe and clicking. This means it’s possible to produce unique designs, tailored to meet the needs of different customers.

Additive manufacturing can enable average consumers to design and customise various products prior to making a purchase. This can be done using professional desktop applications, or even web and mobile apps. Nobody expects the average consumer to design an item from the ground up, but even a child could customise a toy using a simplified mobile app.

The potential for personalised manufacturing is one of the key benefits provided by 3D printing.


Such a platform would have to include loads of different colour or decal options, along with the 3D wireframes themselves. What’s more, it should be possible to create modular designs, so if kids are customising a toy car or doll, they could choose between scores of different, but compatible, components that would be assembled to make the product.

Yes, instead of customising virtual environments in apps and games, kids born today will be able to personalise their real toys, or turn their video game characters into action figures. It kinda makes you wish you were born a couple of decades later, doesn’t it?

Here are a few personalised 3D printing use-cases with mass market appeal:

  • Toys
  • Custom jewelry
  • DIY and hobbyist products
  • Fashion and gadget accessories
  • Personalised appliances and household items

However, products don’t have to be personalised to match your taste; they could also be made to perfectly match your physique, like a tailored suit. These products might not have the mass market appeal of personalised toys, but that doesn’t make them less exciting. In fact, I find them a lot more interesting than a customised brooch or doll.

Here are just some examples:

  • Digital dentistry
  • Surgery (mockups for training, 3D-printed replacement joints)
  • Advanced prosthetics
  • Tailored equipment and apparel for various professions
  • Sports equipment and accessories

Sure, these applications don’t have nearly the same emotional appeal as the ones I mentioned earlier, but in the big scheme of things they could be just as lucrative and important, especially when you consider medical applications.

The Implications And Future Of 3D Printing

So what’s the bottom line? Will 3D printing change the industrial landscape? Is it really the next industrial revolution?

3D printing, or additive manufacturing, is a very promising, but immature, technology. It clearly has a lot of potential, but we’re still nowhere close to realising it even though the industry is seeing a lot of growth.

In fact, the market for 3D printing services, hardware, and materials, has been growing at a healthy double-digit rate for years. Most analysts expect the market to double by the end of the decade, passing the $10 billion mark. That may sound like a lot of money, but let’s put it in perspective: The same analysts expect annual smartphone shipments for 2015 to end up in the 1.3 to 1.4 billion unit range.

Looking past the hype, 3D printing is a technology with limited appeal, at least at this early stage. However, we will continue to see growth and development for the foreseeable future, backed by new use-cases. Many of these use-cases and business models will be based around 3D printing fulfilment services. This is good news for small businesses and individuals, because they will be able to use third-party infrastructure with relative ease. They won’t have to buy dozens of printers, they will simply integrate a few APIs to their platform and that’s it.

In the short term, this is the future of 3D printing, at least from a mass market perspective.

Flux Developer, the toolkit for qualifying advanced photoresins » 3D Printing Media Network

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We’ve had a keen interest in Boston-based company Fortify since it was named a winner of Formnext’s 2018 Start-up Challenge. And for good reason. The company, which in 2021 raised $20 million in a Series B funding round, has pioneered a magnetic DLP 3D printing process for producing high-quality composite parts. The patented process, known as Digital Composite Manufacturing, is at the center of Fortify’s broader offering, which also includes filled photopolymers and a new software solution, Flux Developer, which gives users the tools, experiments, and workflows to develop and qualify filled resins for a variety of applications.

With Flux Developer, Fortify is empowering its clients to use new high-performance materials with its Flux Series 3D printers such as RadixTM low-loss dielectric photopolymers, high purity alumina, low shrink aluminum silicate and ESD High Temperature resin.

Fortify’s Digital Composite Manufacturing

Before we dive into the innovative Flux Developer platform, it’s essential to first understand Fortify’s 3D printing technology and what sets it apart from other resin-based processes on the market. In the simplest terms, Digital Composite Manufacturing (DCM) is an AM process that combines digital light processing (DLP) with magnetics to create composite parts with optimized material performance. More specifically, the technology uses magnetics to align reinforcing fibers (functional additives) in a resin matrix to enhance the material properties of the original photopolymer.

The DCM process achieves this using two key technologies: Continuous Kinetic MixingTM (CKM) and FluxprintTM. The former consists of hardware integrated into Fortify’s 3D printing systems that continuously heats and mixes resin with functional additives ensuring that the material in the print reservoir has uniform distribution and suspension of fibers. In other words, CKM prevents any sedimentation and ensures filler homogeneity throughout the entire part. CKM allows for printing materials with viscosities 100 times more viscous than conventional photopolymers. With Fluxprint, a magnetic field is applied to every layer of the print to align the fibers in a specific orientation. The layer is then selectively cured using UV light, which locks the exposed fibers in place. This process is repeated, with users able to control the fiber orientation of every single fiber layer.

Fortify Flux Developer software for material development and qualification

Fortify has brought its DCM technology to market through its Flux Series 3D printers. Today, the series consists of three models: Flux Core, Flux One and Flux 3D. All three systems feature the same build volume and resolution; where they differ is in their use of Fortify’s Fluxprint technology. As the most basic system, the Flux Core does not integrate fiber alignment; the Flux One enables Z-direction alignment for isotropic material properties; and the Flux 3D allows for full fiber alignment control. All three systems are also based on an open materials platform, meaning that users have the freedom to develop new materials to unlock new properties and applications. 

Advanced material development with Flux Developer

When it comes to developing new materials for AM processes, it is not the material creation itself that is the greatest challenge. Rather, it is qualifying the material for existing hardware and software: finding the right print settings and parameters to achieve the best material properties.

Flux Developer software is the key to developing and printing viscous and fiber-filled photopolymers for Fortify’s 3D printing technology. With it, the company has essentially refined and commercialized its own internal material development and qualification process, laying the foundation for its customers to pursue their own material R&D and reach new levels of performance using DLP-based technology.

In its current iteration—Fortify specifies that it will be continually upgrading the software with new features—Flux Developer gives engineers access to over 30 print parameters, which control various elements of its 3D printing solution, including the light engine, the CKM process and Fluxprint technology. The material qualification solution is made up of four elements: Flux Portal, a browser-based application for creating and sharing materials configurations; Flux Host, the on-machine user interface which houses materials on-boarding experiments; Compass, Fortify’s build preparation software; and Off-Machine Experiments, which includes support and recommendations from Fortify.

Flux Developer’s workflow is fairly intuitive. The user begins with a material formulation or a goal for specific material properties. From there, they can use Flux Host to conduct on-machine experiments, including photokinetics analysis, build plate adhesion, sedimentation rate analysis and rheology tests.

Fortify’s Digital Composite Manufacturing process enables the production of filled photoresin parts.

Experimentation is an essential part of material development and qualification. For example, Fortify has developed automated experiments that are focused on understanding the rheology (resin flow) of a given material, taking into account the material’s own composition (i. e. resin viscosity and fiber content) as well as the process (i.e. the temperature of the resin and the shear rate). Furthermore, Fortify provides analysis tools, such as sedimentation rate analysis which allow users to quickly configure various parameters in Fluxprint.

Fortify has also developed automated DOE (design of experiment) tools to understand settings like build plate adhesion and curing. For example, users can employ an experiments to evaluate the depth of cure and scatter behaviors of a fiber-filled material under certain settings all in a single print. In this experiment, the 3D printer prints 24 samples using different combinations of UV energy intensity and doses to find the best combination. Fortify is also working to expand its roster of experiments to improve print settings for fiber-filled resins.

Once these experiments have been completed, the user moves onto the Flux Portal where they can create material profiles and specify parameters. In the Flux Portal, the user can set many different parameters, including UV exposure intensity and dose; plunge speed and acceleration; peel height, speed and acceleration; and wipe frequency and speed. All these elements of the DLP-based printing process will influence how a material reacts and ultimately performs.

In addition to storing material profiles, Flux Portal also provides vital information to the user like past configurations and changes made, as well as print status, history and analytics for all on-machine experiments. This data is essential, allowing users to easily track the success of print parameter experiments—or find where failures occurred.

Fortify expands portfolio with ESD-HT Resin

But what kinds of materials is it possible to qualify using the Flux Developer platform? While users can choose to test and characterize neat resins, the real value of Fortify’s AM solution is in filled photopolymers, with enhanced material and mechanical properties. One material the company has recently brought to market, which exemplifies its technology’s capabilities, is ESD-HT Resin, a static-dissipative, high-temperature photoresin.

3D printed PCB assembly organizer in ESD-HT material, which was developed on the FLUX ONE printer using Flux Developer software

ESD-HT Resin was developed using the Flux Developer platform and is compatible with Fortify’s Flux Series 3D printers. Using Flux Developer enabled Fortify to accelerate the material’s time to market significantly. Furthermore, the company’s CKM technology has proven vital to ensuring the best performance is achieved for printed parts. As it explains: “An even dispersion [of functional additives] is critical to ensure that ESD-safe parts have consistent resistivities throughout.”

The material itself has been engineered to prevent the buildup of static charge in 3D printed parts, reducing the risk of fire hazards and increasing the durability of sensitive electrical components. The HT designation also means the resin is effective at static dissipation (with resistivities of up to 106 Ω/sq) at temperatures reaching up to 284 degrees Celsius, making it suitable for a broad range of applications in industries that require electrostatic-free environments, as well as those with fire and explosion risks.

More specifically, the advanced photoresin can be used to print parts to improve explosion and fire prevention in automotive painting facilities, flour processing plants, oil refineries, gas stations and more. Additionally, the material’s ESD-safe properties are helpful in the production of assembly trays, wave solder pallets and printed circuit board racks in electronics manufacturing. ESD-HT can also be used to minimize the contamination risk from electrostatics like dust or bioparticles in clean environments like hospitals, food handling facilities, automotive interiors and air pumps.

This high-performance material unlocks a wealth of new applications for Fortify’s DCM 3D printing. With the Flux Developer platform, new filled photoresins—with specific parameters and benefits—can be developed and qualified more efficiently, leading to even more application possibilities as well as enhancing existing AM applications.

This article was published in collaboration with Fortify.

A Brief History of 3D Printing / Sudo Null IT News

3D printing was born 40 years ago and opened up amazing possibilities for creating various models in prototyping, dentistry, small-scale production, customized products, miniatures, sculptures, mock-ups and much more.

Who invented the 3D printer? What was the first 3D printing technology? And what was the first thing they printed on a 3D printer? Let's open the veil of secrecy over a huge number of interesting facts and stories about the emergence of technology. 9. , which layer-by-layer formed a rigid object from a photopolymer resin with the help of UV illumination.

In fact, he described a modern photopolymer printer, but failed to provide the necessary data for patent registration within a year, as required by patent law, and abandoned the idea. However, in many sources it is he who is called the inventor of 3D printing technology.

In 1983, three engineers - Alain Le Meho, Olivier de Witt and Jean-Claude André from the French National Center for Scientific Research, in an attempt to create what they called a "fractal object", came up with the idea of ​​using a laser and a monomer, which, under the influence of a laser, turned into a polymer. They applied for a patent 3 weeks before the American Chuck Hal. The first object created on the apparatus was a spiral staircase. Engineers called the technology stereolithography, and the patent was approved only in 1986 year. Thanks to them, the most famous file format for 3D printing is called STL (from the English stereolithography). Unfortunately, the institute did not see any prospects in the invention and its commercialization, and the patent was not used to create the final product.

Chuck Hull, Inventor of SLA

Laser Stereolithography At the same time, Chuck Hull was working for a company that made countertop and furniture coatings using UV lamps. The production of small plastic parts for prototyping new product designs took up to two months. Chuck came up with the idea to speed up this process by combining UV technology and layering thin plastic. The company gave him a small laboratory for experiments, where he worked in the evenings and weekends. As a material, Chuck used acrylic-based photopolymers that harden under the influence of ultraviolet radiation. One night, after months of experimentation, he was finally able to print a sample and was so elated by luck that he walked home. Chuck showed his invention to his wife. It was an eyewash cup, more like a communion cup, according to the wife. It is considered officially the first 3D printed model in the world and is still kept by the Hull family, and after their death will be transferred to the Smithsonian Research Institute in Washington.

Hull's Cup

Chuck Hull filed a patent on August 8, 1984 and was approved on March 11, 1986. The invention was called "Apparatus for creating three-dimensional objects using stereolithography." Chuck founded his own company - 3D Systems, and in 1988 launched the first commercial 3D printer - the SL1 model.

Carl Deckard and Joe Beeman (right), inventors of SLS 3D printing (1987)

Another new 3D printing method appeared around the same time as SLA printing. This is selective laser sintering SLS , which uses a laser to turn loose powder (instead of resin) into a solid material. Carl Deckard , a young undergraduate student at the University of Texas at Austin, and his tutor Prof. Dr. Joe Beeman were involved in the development. And the idea belonged to Karl. In 1987, they co-founded Desk Top Manufacturing (DTM) Corp. However, it will take at least another 20 years for SLS 3D printing to become commercially available to the consumer. In 2001, the company was bought out by Chaka Hull, 3D Systems.

Scott Crump, developer of FDM 3D printing (1988)

Surprisingly simpler and cheaper 3D printing is FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) was created after SLA and SLS, in 1988. Its author was aeronautical engineer Scott Crump . Crump was looking for an easy way to make a toy frog for his daughter and used a hot glue gun to melt the plastic and pour it into layers. Thus, the idea of ​​FDM 3D printing was born, a technology for layer-by-layer deposition of a plastic thread. Crump patented a new idea and co-founded Stratasys with his wife Lisa Crump at 1989 year. In 1992, they launched their first production product, the Stratasys 3D Modeler, on the market.

Milestone 2: 3D printing becomes available

The first machines built by 3D Systems and Stratasys were bulky and expensive. The cost of one was hundreds of thousands of dollars, and only the largest companies in the automotive and aerospace industries could use them. Printers had a lot of limitations and could not be widely used. The development of technology has been very slow. 20 years later, in 2005, the RepRap (Replicating Rapid Prototyper) project appeared - a self-replicating mechanism for rapid prototyping.

It was inspired by Dr. Adrian Bauer from the University of Bath in the UK. The goal of the project was to "self-copy", replicate the components of the 3D printers themselves. In the photo, all the plastic parts of the "child" are printed on the "parent". But in fact, a group of enthusiasts led by Adrian were finally able to create the budget 3D printer for home or office use.

The idea was quickly taken up by three New York technologists and started a desktop FDM printer company, MakerBot. This was the second turning point in the modern history of 3D printing.

Other technologies were being developed in parallel. One of them is bioprinting. Thomas Boland of Clemson University has patented the use of inkjet printing to 3D print living cells, making it possible to print human organs in the future. Dozens of companies around the world conduct research in this area.

Another important use of the new technology was the creation of prostheses, first conventional, and then bionic. In 2008, the first printed prosthesis was successfully transplanted into a patient and allowed him to return to a normal lifestyle.

Another milestone has been the emergence of open source print files on the Internet. Websites www.thingiverse.com, www.myminifactory.com and many others contain both free and paid files for 3D printing. Users share models online and print them themselves.

Stage 3: 3D printing today

In recent years, 3D printing has become available to the mass consumer: the price of printers has dropped significantly, and their use has become more convenient. Photopolymer 3D printers print detailed models with high precision and resolution. The number of users is growing, including due to the huge community of enthusiasts who are ready to help beginners. This is facilitated by the availability of ready-made files for 3D printing and the availability of software for creating models.

3D printing is already becoming a standard solution in industries such as dentistry, jewelry, orthopedics, and in other industries the implementation is in full swing. The possibilities are endless - from building houses to neurosurgery, from chocolate printing to metal printing.

Alexander Kornveits ,

Expert in the field of additive technologies, founder and CEO of Tsvetnoy Mir

“Zelenograd 3D printer developer presented an update to its line of devices” in the Innovations blog

Additive technologies are increasingly entering various areas human activity. Examples of industries in which apply 3D printing, quite a lot: instrumentation, mechanical engineering, aviation and military industry, architecture, medicine, education, etc.

Russian company PICASO 3D. Development and production of company devices carried out in the city of Zelenograd.

Zelenograd is one of the 12 administrative districts of Moscow, also known as one of the research and production centers Soviet and Russian electronics and microelectronics. Long before Skolkovo, the city was called "Russian Silicon Valley". silicon tut and there really is plenty: the Mikron and Angstrem plants annually produce hundreds of millions of integrated circuits. However Zelenograd is known not only for this: in 2011 the first Russian 3D printer.

Development of the first device based on the technology layer-by-layer fusing of plastic (Fused Filament Fabrication) - Gen-X - started in 2010. Senior students of the Moscow Institute of Electronic Technology (NRU MIET) - Andrey Isupov and Maxim Anisimov developed their own graduation project - a six-legged spider robot with a microprocessor control system. One of the tasks was the manufacture of the case for a robot. For this, a Canadian 3D printer was purchased. In the process of working with the device, young people quickly identified main problem: print quality left much to be desired. it and became the beginning of the development of the idea of ​​creating your own mechanism.

His first device model, Gen-X, Isupov and Anisimov collected by hand in a small room of the apartment on the first floor. Parts for the prototype were created from plastic, which were printed on a Canadian 3D printer. The name of the emerging company - SKB "Kiparis".

Long-term development, testing and innovation result in Builder and proprietary software - PICASO 3D Polygon, which allowed you to set print settings digital 3D model. In other words, it "cut" the model into layers. Unlike Gen-X, in PICASO 3D Builder has a function of automatic table calibration, which improved print quality (minimum layer thickness reached 100 µm). And already at the end of 2012, the serial production of devices, which allowed the Zelenograd company take a significant share in the Russian market.

PICASO was announced at the end of 2013 3D designer. The combination of a closed chamber and heated platform allowed high-quality printing of large parts from ABS plastic.

Starting from summer 2014, PICASO 3D printers are assembled on the premises of one of the largest plants in Russia, in Zelenograd. The control of components, checking the nodes, the assembly of printers and their testing are also carried out here. The principle of "lean production" and continuous quality control helped the company reach a whole new level by reducing the likelihood of marriage. Own design section allows you to develop everything new technological solutions, making 3D printing as simple and accessible.

By the middle of 2014, PICASO 3D Designer became the flagship companies. It was Designer that brought the company the greatest fame. in Russia. In October 2014, the company received two awards at the largest exhibition of the year 3D Print Expo - "Best Domestic Manufacturer” and “Brand of the Year”. The work of PICASO 3D engineers does not stand still, and already in December 2014 it was presented absolutely new printer, which has no analogues in the world - Designer PRO 250. Its feature is an accurate high-quality printing using supporting structures made of soluble materials.

As you know, to build 90% of prototypes of varying complexity supports are required. Use of one material for both the product and the supporting structure calls certain difficulties in the cleaning process of the part, since they strongly solder with the main product, and the support structure itself strong enough and for its cleaning it is necessary to use either knife or pliers. Thin elements cannot be printed at all, because the support eventually turns out to be stronger, and the final cleanliness the surface that lay on the supporting structure remains poor quality, and its geometry is lost.

Prior to the PRO 250, dual nozzle printing required second extruder, which entailed significant restrictions in the press. In addition, the printable area was reduced due to additional print head, and switching between materials took about 4 seconds, which significantly slowed down part manufacturing.

In addition, plastic, threads constantly ooze from the inactive nozzle which fall on the part, spoiling its appearance. With long seals, the flowing volume is large enough, as a result of which underextrusion occurs at the beginning of the layer. To solve this problems, the method of cooling the nozzle and cleaning it when help building a pillar next to the part. As a result, a lot of time is spent on cooling the nozzle, from 10 to 20 seconds per layer.

The difference is easy to understand using the example of a cube with a side of 10 cm. Let's assume that we print with a layer of 0.1 mm. In total - 1000 layers, 20 seconds per layer, for a total of 20,000 seconds just for switching, which is 5. 5 hours.

Nozzle switching time. Part: cube 10 cm, layer 0.1 mm

1 coat

complete part


0.25 sec

250 sec / 4 min

Other printers (switching in 10 seconds)

10 sec

10000 sec / 2.78 h

Other printers

(20 sec changeover)

20 sec

20000 s / 5.56 h

Designer PRO 250 has two nozzles but one extruder. The developed technology of switching between nozzles - JetSwitch - allows you to change the active nozzle in 250 milliseconds, which is 40 times faster than analogs. Thanks to this development, the user gains the ability to work with two materials with the speed and convenience of a single-head printer. This is possible thanks to complete shutdown of the supply of the second material without reducing the working temperature. Possibility of printing with combinations of PLA+PVA plastics, ABS+HIPS opens up a wide scope for engineering and technical creativity.

At the end of 2015, the company received new awards at the largest exhibition for 3D printing and 3D Print Expo technologies 2015. Many teams were nominated in different categories, such as quite well-known, and beginners. According to the 3D community, PICASO 3D again deserved the award in the category "Best domestic manufacturer. The surprise was the victory in the nomination "Best Innovative Company".

And on May 14, 2016, an exhibition-conference was held in DI Telegraph TOP 3D EXPO, which gathered in one place the leaders and key players of the Russian market of additive technologies. Our company told the guests about what changes are expected in PICASO printers 3D Designer and Designer PRO 250. In the new version of products, developers will try to take into account all the wishes of customers and add functionality, which will make printing even easier, more convenient, fast and high quality.

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