Three libraries in Connecticut add 3D printers to their collections

3D Printing in the Library

Three libraries in Connecticut add 3D printers to their collections

Three libraries in Connecticut add 3D printers to their collections


The Courant recently announced that the Southington library has a new Makerbot Replicator II.  Southington marks the third library in the state of Connecticut to have a 3D printer, after Westport and Trumbull.  “Westport’s library was the first in Connecticut to get a 3D printer, and in July 2012 opened what it called its Maker Space, a section with several printers where people can learn to use them and design and make things…[it] was featured on the cover of the October 2012 Library Journal, resulting in libraries from Boston to Alaska contacting Westport library Director Maxine Bleiweis about the new service.  Westport is hosting a meeting [on] October 1st of about 100 librarians who want to see what it means for a library to have a 3D printer.”  Director Bleiweis discussed the public response to Wesport’s Maker Space: “It’s beyond exciting.  People really are drawn to it.  It’s something new to learn, which fits the role of libraries as places of knowledge.  We have 20 people trained to use the printers.  These machines are the democratization of manufacturing.  People can use them to make almost anything they can design.”

Photo Courtesy of MakerBot

Quotes Courtesy of The Courant

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Saving the World with 3D Printing

The Persian Gulf is under threat.  The coral reef ecosystem in waters off Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain has been badly damaged and destroyed by coastal and offshore development – which, according to Forbes, “involves large-scale dredging, infilling, coastal modifications, and the creation of artificial waterways.”  Indeed, “the World Resources Institute estimates that coral cover in Bahrain has dropped from at least 50 percent in the 1980s to nearly zero percent today.”  Into this crisis stepped Reef Arabia.  The company designs and manufactures artificial reefs, or as they like to call them, constructed reefs.  Their goal is to “regenerate precious ocean habitat and improve fish populations.”  “The Reef Arabia team – made up of experts from the local area and members of Australia-based Sustainable Oceans International (SOI) – has already submerged nearly 3,000 concrete Reef Balls and custom designed reef units near Bahrain.”  However, Reef Arabia has begun working on a new strategy.  As David Lennon, Reef Arabia team member and director at SOI explains, these concrete constructed reefs have their drawbacks, which is why he prefers a sandstone-like substance: “sandstone, unlike concrete, is closer to a natural earth rock and has a neutral pH surface which makes it more attractive to coral larvae looking for a home.”  Therefore, “Reef Arabia, in collaboration with SOI, 3D program specialist James Gardiner, and rapid manufacturing experts DShape, is pioneering a new 3D printed reef unit made of non-toxic patented sandstone material.  Two of these 3D printed reefs – weighing 1,100 pounds – were sunk off the coast of Bahrain last fall.”  Not only are these reefs far more natural than their concrete counterparts, but also because they are 3D printed, they allow for greater flexibility in design, which “allows the Reef Arabia team to create more intricate [reef] patterns found in natural coral structures.”  These sorts of designs are critical, according to Lennon, “because diversity in habitat drives diversity of species, a major factor in creating an ecosystem resilient to climate change.”  These prototype reef units were made from scratch in a week, and cut down the project’s carbon footprint.  Lennon concludes that “if we did a detailed count we would find the 3D units have a greater number of different types of fish and the crevices created by the [more complex and natural patterns] will support more cryptic fish, crabs, and shrimp which the concrete Reef Balls or other units can’t.”

Video Courtesy of Reef Arabia

Photo and Quotes Courtesy of Forbes Magazine     

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3D Printed “Firearm” Crackdown?


In what is considered to be the first action of its kind, police in Wythenshawe, Manchester have seized a 3D printer and what they believe to be 3D printed gun components.  This operation, as reported in PrintWeek, “were carried out as part of Operation Challenger, the largest ever multi-agency attempt to target organized crime in the history of [the Greater Manchester City Police].”  During this particular raid, “officers found a MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printer and two 3D printed component parts thought to be a magazine clip and a trigger.  In addition, a man was arrested on suspicion of making gunpowder and remains in custody for questioning.”  Firearms specialists are currently determining if these components could, viably, be used in the construction of a 3D printed gun.  As Detective Inspector Chris Mossop of Challenger’s Organized Crime Coordination Unit explains, “in theory, the technology essentially allows offenders to produce their own guns in the privacy of their own home, which they can then supply to criminal gangs who are causing such misery in our communities.  Because [these 3D printed guns] are also plastic and can avoid X-ray detection, it makes them easy to conceal and smuggle.”  If the 3D printed components do turn out to have viable uses in potential firearms, this seizure would mark a historic moment in the regulation of the growing 3D printing industry. 

Update: Monday, November 4th, 2013:

According to several sources, including CNN, “it now appears the parts are likey just replacement component parts for the 3D printer itself.  This scintillating turn of events began when “photos of the parts were quickly picked apart online by the 3D printing community…and identified as pieces for a 3D printer.  The store owner [said] the ‘magazine’ part was actually a ‘spool holder’ for the printer, and the parts were designed by the printer manufacturer.”  The Greater Manchester Police have subsequently released a follow-up statement: “acknowledg[ing] that they could not confirm the parts were from a 3D printed gun, saying they needed further forensic testing by ballistics experts.”

From where we sit, though, this raid is looking more and more like an aggrievious police blunder.

Photo and Quotes Courtesy of PrintWeek

Update Quotes Courtesy of CNN      

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The Need for Speed: 3D Printed Horseshoes


According to Australia Network News, researchers in Melbourne from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) have created state of the art horseshoes using additive manufacturing.  These titanium purple shoes are for a racehorse nicknamed ‘Titanium Prints’.  “CSIRO’s Titanium expert John Barnes says it takes less than 24 hours to print four customized shoes for a horse and it costs approximately 600 [Australian Dollars] for all of them.”  Although this is slightly more expensive than the standard aluminum horseshoe, it is much lighter.  “We believe the weight reduction would be worth the added cost.”  Mr. Barnes added.  John Moloney, the horse’s trainer, “says that the ultimate race shoe should be as light weight as possible.  ‘Any extra weight in the horse shoe will slow the horse down.’ He said.”  Moloney went on to illustrate how this new 3D printed shoe is about half the weight of a traditionally manufactured shoe.  Mr. Barnes believes these shoes “demonstrate the range of applications [3D printing] can be used for.  ‘We wanted to highlight an area of 3D printing that we feel isn’t getting enough attention,’ he said, ‘ we wanted to show people how a custom piece could be made and the design flexibility within the process.  Each hoof was scanned and a custom contour made.  Further design optimization can take more weight out which also takes out cost.”

Photo and Quotes Courtesy of Australia Network News     

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Six-Axis 3D Printer


This groundbreaking additive manufacturing technique was first reported by Fabbaloo.  Yong Chen, Associate Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Southern California, “has been experimenting with different mechanical arrangements for 3D extrusion printing.  Readers are likely familiar with the standard Cartesian XYZ 3 axis configuration typically found in inexpensive personal 3D printers.  You may also be familiar with the ‘delta’ concept, in which three vertical axes can maneuver an extruder around the print bed.  But Chen has gone further with the introduction of a six axis 3D printer.”  This new technology offers its users the “ability to tilt the extruder.”  This means that the 3D printer can print on both a slanted surface and a curved surface.  Fabbaloo was at a loss for any practical applications you could use this 6-axis 3D printer for, but Gizmodo offered up this suggestion: “…still upset about breaking the handle on your favorite mug?  A 3D printer can make it as good as new and thanks to [the new 6-axis 3D printer] a replacement handle could be printed directly onto [the] mug.”

Photo, Video, and Quotes Courtesy of Fabbaloo

Quote Courtesy of Gizmodo

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3D Printing and Space: “Into the Metal Age”


The BBC has reported that at the London Science Museum, the European Space Agency has announced The Amaze project.  This project “is a loose acronym for Additive Manufacturing Aiming Towards Zero Waste and Efficient Production of High-Tech Metal Products” and “brings together 28 institutions…from European industry and academia – including Airbus, Astrium, Norsk Titanium, Cranfield University, EADS, and the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy.”  The aim of Amaze is to “develop new metal components which are lighter, stronger, and cheaper than conventional parts.”  And 3D printing will play a huge part in making that possible.  This announcement comes on the heels of NASA’s commitment to put the first 3D printer into space by 2014.  The Amaze project has already produced “tungsten alloy components that can withstand temperatures of 3,000C…at such extreme temperatures they can survive inside nuclear fusion reactors and on the nozzles of rockets.”  As David Jarvis, Esa’s head of new materials and energy research went on to say, “we want to build the best quality metal products ever made.  Objects you can’t possibly manufacture any other way…to build a [fusion reactor], like Iter, you somehow have to take the heat of the Sun and put it in a metal box.  3,000C is as hot as you can imagine for engineering.  If we can get 3D metal printing to work, we are well on the way to commercial nuclear fusion.”   Indeed, metal jet engine parts and airplane wing sections have already been 3D printed.  “These high-strength components are typically built from expensive, exotic metals such as titanium, tantalum, and vanadium.”  These metals are 3D printed because additive manufacturing produces almost ‘zero waste’.  Esa’s Franco Ongaro expounds upon the necessity of 3D printing for future space exploration: “To produce one kilo of metal, you use one kilo of metal [when 3D printing] – not 20 kilos.  We need to clean up our act – the space industry needs to be more green.  And [3D printing] will help us.”  “Our ultimate aim is to print a satellite in a single piece.  One chunk of metal, that doesn’t need to be welded or bolted,” Jarvis added, “to do that would save 50% of the costs – millions of Euros.”         

Photo and Quotes Courtesy of the BBC

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MakerBot Digitizer: 3D Printing For The Rest Of Us

MakerBot has announced the release of another exciting new gadget.  As reported by Personalize, the MakerBot Digitizer 3D scanner is designed for people who want to get into 3D printing, but don’t have a background in 3D modeling.  The Digitizer has a two-click function and scans an object as it spins on a turntable.  (As shown by MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis in the video above)  “Behind the two-click simplicity is a powerful and complex reconstruction process.  MakerWare for Digitizer contains an algorithm that connects hundreds of thousands of points into a seamless digital mesh in just seconds.  There’s no patching, stitching, or repairing required, so you can skip straight to your creative process.  We’ve worked hard to create software that saves you time.”  Though the Digitizer can capture details as small as 0.5 mm, MakerBot warns, “expectations should be realistic.  You will not be able to, for example, scan a hamburger and then eat the digital design.  Expectations for precision should be realistic, too.  The MakerBot Digitizer is not ideal for engineers who require very high precision scanning. If you need a realistic reproduction of the tiny features on an insect’s body, the MakerBot Digitizer is not the tool for you.”  This is because MakerBot envisions the Digitizer as an “access point” for those of us who don’t have a designer’s mind, and just want to be able to 3D print something without the hassle of CAD software.  The Digitizer is priced at $1,400, and will set your creative mind free. 

Video, Photo, and Quotes Courtesy of MakerBot and

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PBS Explores the World of 3D Printing


Photo and Video Courtesy of PBS Digital Studios (Off Book YouTube Channel)

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3D Printing: The Next Industrial Revolution

Direct Digital Manufacturing Pioneers

3D Printing: The Next Industrial RevolutionBy Christopher Barnatt

Christopher Barnatt is a futurist, videographer, and Associate Professor of Computing & Future Studies in Nottingham University Business School.  His book 3D Printing: The Next Industrial Revolution (from which quotations in this article are taken) was published on May 4th, 2013.  ISBN: 978-1484181768. RRP $14.99 US / £9.99 UK / €11.50 EU.

There are three, parallel ways in which 3D printing may drive a manufacturing revolution. Firstly, the technology may increasingly be applied to fabricate prototypes and to tool-up and otherwise assist with traditional production methods. For example, 3D printers such as those made by ExOne may be used to create sand casts by spraying a foundry-grade resin onto layer-after-layer of casting sand. Producing such ‘3D sand casts’ not only allows more intricate and accurate parts to be created, but may cut total production time by as much as 70 per cent.

Secondly, 3D printing may drive a manufacturing revolution by enabling a new generation of ‘makers’ to produce their own products at home. Indeed, by potentially moving the means of production into the hands of the majority, 3D printing may threaten the very nature of capitalism itself. This said, while the hype that surrounds consumer-grade printers like the Cube, Makerbot, Solidoodle and Up Plus! continues to self-feed, in practice mainstream manufacture-on-demand at the domestic level remains a somewhat distant possibility.

The final way in which 3D printing may drive a manufacturing revolution is by allowing at least some companies to engage in direct digital manufacturing (DDM). This may involve the production of existing products with a 3D printed component, with examples including the 3D printed cleat incorporated into Nike’s latest Vapor Laser Talon trainers. More fundamentally, 3D printing may permit pioneering organizations to fabricate entire, highly customized products, or to produce things that would be impossible to make — or to make cost-effectively — using traditional manufacturing methods.

3D Printed Art

While conducting the research for my book 3D Printing: The Next Industrial Revolution, I interviewed a wide range of direct digital manufacturing pioneers who are already using 3D printing to make the impossible possible. Just one of these was renowned 3D printing artist Bathsheba Grossman. Bathsheba utilizes the 3D printing bureau services i.materialise and Shapeways to allow her to sell a range of sculptures and jewelry from the Bathsheba Sculpture website at In turn this has allowed to her develop a business model that is ‘more like publishing than like gallery-based art marketing’.

As Bathsheba told me, she got into 3D printing because she was — and still is — ‘very attracted to sculptural forms that are difficult to produce by traditional manufacturing means’. As she further explained, ‘The root of all my problems is undercuts: that’s any sort of overhang, through hole, reverse draft angle, or other feature that makes it impossible to remove an object from a mold, without breaking either the mold or the object itself. My designs are all undercuts all the time, and before 3D printing that made them very difficult to produce as economically viable sculpture. In the late 1990’s I had a portfolio of designs that were too unmoldable to make, and too geeky to sell in galleries . . . Cheap 3D printing and web marketing appeared at that time and suddenly those particular problems were solved’.

Unique Designs from Nature

Another pioneer that produces 3D printed jewelry and other artistic works is Nervous System. This was founded in 2007 by Jessica Rosenkrantz and Jesse Louis-Rosenberg, and describes itself as a ‘generative design studio that works at the intersection of science, art, and technology’. The studio uses computer simulations to generate digital designs based on patterns found in nature. These are then 3D printed to create a unique range of rings, bracelets, earrings, pendants, lamps and other artworks that are sold from the studio’s website at

As the studio’s manager, Aaron Holmes, told me, Nervous System’s 3D printed products are produced by Shapeways. Many are laser sintered in nylon, with others output in stainless steel and bronze using the binder jetting hardware created by ExOne. Other pieces of jewelry are manufactured in precious metals — including silver, gold and platinum — by using a 3D printer to create a lost-wax object master around which a mold is created for sacrificial casting. Internally, Nervous System uses a MakerBot Replicator to help with its 3D design processes.

Interested in how Nervous System became a digital manufacturing pioneer, I interviewed its co-founder Jessica Rosenkrantz. As she recalled, ‘We started making works using 3D printing in 2009 with our project Cell Cycle. We are interested in digital fabrication processes like 3D printing because they enable us to create complex, organic forms that would be difficult to create otherwise, and they allow us to create one-of-a-kind, customized products’.

Cell Cycle ‘was inspired by the skeletons of radiolarians and is made up of cellular jewelry computed from a physics model of spring meshes’. The Cell Cycle app runs on the Nervous System website (at, and allows visitors to interactively design their own customized jewelry in real-time, with a 3D model of their creation displayed on screen. When they have finished designing, customers just need to ‘finalize and purchase’, with data then passed to Shapeways who 3D print the object. It really is a very neat and innovative digital manufacturing solution.

3D Printed Sunglasses

Another DDM pioneer is Protos Eyewear, which has specialized in the creation and sale of ‘consumer grade 3D printed sunglasses’. Via its website at, the company sells a wide variety of frames, with all products laser sintered using a ‘proprietary mixture’ of powdered materials to achieve a high quality of finish. As Protos advertises, the ‘intricate layering process [of 3D printing] results in bold and striking designs that are impossible to make through standard manufacturing methods. Protos eyewear is lightweight and durable, and the material provides a unique look and feel’.

In common with Nervous System, Protos Eyewear have created their own software to take advantage of the customization possibilities presented by 3D printing. As Marc Levinson, CEO of Protos, and Richart Ruddie, its CTO, told me, they have developed an application that allows them to custom fit a pair of sunglasses to a customer’s specific facial measurements. Customers can therefore not only choose a unique style of frame, but one which they can be certain will actually fit.

From Hardware to Software

As my interviews progressed it became clear that custom software development is already a critical tool in the armory of many digital manufacturing pioneers. Today, it is 3D printers themselves that continue to make most of the headlines. But, just as happened in the early personal computing industry, it is likely that the value focus will fairly rapidly shift from hardware manufacture to software development.

Any designer can already buy a 3D printer — or utilize a 3D printing bureau service — and set themselves up as a digital manufacturing pioneer. But it will increasingly be a company’s unique software applications that will distinguish and add most value to their offering. After all, if 3D printing technology develops as many hope and claim, then within a decade off-the-shelf hardware will be able to scan and recreate any physical thing. The ability to continually develop software that will keep a company’s digital designs individually unique for every single customer may therefore become critical to the success and even survival of many manufacturing organizations.

3D Printed Toys

Again demonstrating this point, another digital manufacturing pioneer that I interviewed was MakieLab. Here customized dolls called MAKIES can be created online that are then laser sintered in nylon and clothed via traditional means. The MAKIE creator web tool (at offers each customer a very wide range of options for their customizable doll, including a choice of gender, skin colour, head shape, eyes, eyebrows, nose, mouth, hair, outfit, and even the width of the smile and the shape of the hands. Due to the range of options available, every MAKIE doll created is unique — and to date over 77,000 have been shipped.

Founded in 2011 to ‘model toys then manufacture toys overnight’, MakieLab plans to broaden its product range and to continue to take advantage of the potential of 3D printing to create unique products very rapidly. As co-founder Jo Roach revealed, ‘We decided to make 3D printed products because the toy industry is ripe for disruption: customizable, personal toys are far more interesting than generic made-in-China toys. They encourage creativity in kids before they even get to the toy store, and for MakieLab they allow local production and fast iteration. Customers can ask for horn rimmed glasses on Monday and we can have them in the store by Friday.’

Also creating customized toys are Here bespoke software allows customers to upload a front and side photograph of their face, which is then turned into a full-colour, 3D printed head using ZPrinter hardware from 3D Systems. These miniature heads can then be purchased stand-alone, added to a standard 4, 6 or 12 inch action figure (for example Batgirl, Superman or Wonder Woman), or put on to the body of a Lego mini-figure. In common with MakieLab, a host of customization options are thrown in for good measure. As sales director John Keaton told me, ‘We’d like every kid to have their own custom action figure one day’.

The New Frontier

When I began my interviews in January 2013, a respected and very helpful industry insider told me that only the military were currently using 3D printers to make final products or parts thereof, and that ‘nobody would tell me about that’. Nevertheless, as the above examples demonstrate, already at least some pioneering artists and entrepreneurs have begun to explore 3D printing as a final manufacturing technology, and with impressive results.

While spanning many different industries, already it seems that direct digital manufacturing pioneers have more than a few things in common. For a start, they are employing 3D printing technologies either in defiance of traditional manufacturing limitations, and/or to produce custom goods. Secondly, the majority of DDM pioneers are creating customer value added (and cementing their market position) by developing bespoke software that has the opportunity to keep them at the cutting edge as competitors emerge and 3D printing technologies change.

Finally, every single direct digital manufacturing pioneer that I spoke to shared a passion for 3D printing as a truly transformative technology. Or as Jessica Rosenkrantz of Nervous System enthused, 3D printing will continue to allow companies ‘to make better, more interesting products’ and will ‘free us from the limitations of mass production’. As she continued, ‘Since the technology is much more accessible than traditional manufacturing, more people will be able to pursue their ideas and make products that meet their specific desires and needs’

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Stratasys Acquires MakerBot


According to CNN Money, Stratasys and MakerBot announced a merger recently.  Stratasys, which up until this point has focused on producing professional-grade 3D printers, will run MakerBot as a separate subsidiary.  Bre Pettis, MakerBot’s co-founder and CEO, interviewed in the above video, will remain with the company.  MakerBot sells less expensive, consumer-focused 3D printers.  The Brooklyn-based company has sold more than 22,000 desktop 3D printers since its founding in 2009, with 11,000 of those machines sold in the last nine months.  Stratasys CEO David Reis spoke about the merger: “MakerBot has impressive products, and we believe that the company’s strategy of making 3D printing accessible and affordable will continue to drive adoption.”

Photo Courtesy of Makezine

Quote Courtesy of CNN Money

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The (3D Printed) Shot Heard ‘Round The World


As reported on the front page of the BBC News website this morning, the world’s first 3D printed gun has been successfully tested on a firing range just outside of Austin, Texas.  The gun was printed on an $8,000 3D printer “and assembled from separate printed components made from ABS plastic – only the firing pin was made from metal.” The group who created and tested the firearm, Defense Distributed, will put the blueprints online.  “Defense Distributed is headed by Cody Wilson, a 25-year-old law student at the University of Texas… [he] describes himself as a crypto-anarchist…[and] said his plans to make the design available were ‘about liberty’…[he went on to say that] ‘there is a demand [for] guns – there just is.  There are states all over the world that say you can’t own firearms – and that’s not true anymore…I’m seeing a world where technology says you can pretty much be able to have whatever you want.  It’s not up to the political players any more.’”

Quotes and Photo Courtesy of the BBC

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