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"Anti-Gravity" 3D Printer Sculpts Shapes On Any Surface

samzenpus posted about 10 months ago | from the spider-printer dept.

Technology 51

kkleiner writes "A 3D printing technique has been developed that prints objects that seemingly defy gravity. Dubbed the Mataerial 3D printing system, a robotic arm can print 3D curves on floors, walls, and ceilings, whether the surface is smooth or uneven. Custom-shaped objects are created using a thermoplast that dries on contact with air, which offers an alternative fabrication method to typical 2D layering printing approaches. Though its broad practicality is questioned outside artistic creations, the video produced by the team is mesmerizing."

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51 comments

thermoplastic construction (4, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 10 months ago | (#43956501)

It's not just artistic. I can see a commercial application to this: Automobile fabrication. Think of how much faster you could produce them, and the reliability, if you could create a metal support shell and then bond arbitrary shapes of plastic to it. Creating the body of a vehicle... hell, repairing the body would be much easier. Just cut away the damaged section and press the button labelled "reform" and in a few hours, you've got yourself a new bumper. Didn't even have to repair the old one. Bonds with the original materials... just as strong as before.

Considering how effing expensive car repair is now, I can well imagine how well loved a bay with a 3D printer loaded for 'Car' would be. Next time someone keys your car, you get a crease in the door, whatever... just drive it into your handy 3D printer-equipped body shop and in an hour they're done and busy repainting the affected panel.

Re:thermoplastic construction (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43956569)

It's limited to the material. It's patented of course. You can do this with a glue gun so there's prior art to squash it.

Re:thermoplastic construction (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43956593)

You wouldn't download a CAR...

Re:thermoplastic construction (1)

ewibble (1655195) | about 10 months ago | (#43956819)

I a heartbeat, Parent probably trying to funny though.

Re: thermoplastic construction (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43957075)

Lol joke went right over your head. its a reference to an old anti-piracy ad in which they compare stealing to piracy, "you wouldn't download a car, don't download this DVD" etc. Have you been on Slashdot before? this joke is made daily

Re: thermoplastic construction (1)

ewibble (1655195) | about 10 months ago | (#43957211)

I got the reference, that why I said they where trying to be funny, but my answer is true, if I could download a car, I would have no moral issues with doing it.

Re:thermoplastic construction (-1, Offtopic)

John Pfeiffer (454131) | about 10 months ago | (#43957273)

God DAMMIT, if my mod points hadn't apparently just expired, I would've modded you up, since it was obviously meant as a joke. (And I did find it amusing.)

Hopefully someone else will deliver! :(

Re:thermoplastic construction (3, Insightful)

c0lo (1497653) | about 10 months ago | (#43956607)

You really think that a metal panel (hell, the body of a vehicle) would be "just as strong as before" if replaced with thermoplastic? Or do you suggest that the body of a vehicle can be reduced to the bumper?

What makes you think the use of 3D printing will make your car repair less expensive?

Re:thermoplastic construction (2)

lister king of smeg (2481612) | about 10 months ago | (#43956727)

What makes you think the use of 3D printing will make your car repair less expensive?

metalicarap (http://reprap.org/wiki/MetalicaRap) a open source in development 3d metal printer once you cant print metal parts car part will not be a problem

Re:thermoplastic construction (2)

c0lo (1497653) | about 10 months ago | (#43956993)

What makes you think the use of 3D printing will make your car repair less expensive?

metalicarap (http://reprap.org/wiki/MetalicaRap) a open source in development 3d metal printer once you cant print metal parts car part will not be a problem

Equating "print your own solar cells" with "print your own car body" (printing at 10^-4 tor pressure. Thin layers created by vapor deposition)... I guess it somehow makes sense, if the drug you take is gentle enough to get you to a "creative high"

Try to "print" using a metal with high thermal conductivity and you'll see the costs is not going to be driven by the material you use but by the energy you waste. Assuming the thermal conductivity is reasonably low, consider the specific heat of the metal - would it make better sense to 3D-print a deformed car panel versus cold-press it?

If you are considering a DIY scenario, would it make sense to buy a metal 3D-printer for... say... 1-2 incident(s)/year (if you are a poor driver)? If assuming the repair shop invest in the 3D printer, wouldn't be the price determined by "what the customers in the serviced area are willing to pay" rather than the actual cost of materials/labor?

Re:thermoplastic construction (2)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 10 months ago | (#43957241)

If assuming the repair shop invest in the 3D printer, wouldn't be the price determined by "what the customers in the serviced area are willing to pay" rather than the actual cost of materials/labor?

Not really. If we assume a competitive marketplace, we can assume that not every repair shop will charge the same price. If two shops have the same quality, or at least the same perceived quality, the cheaper shop will get more business, even though they might get less income per repair, they are likely to be more profitable due to the larger volume of customers they can serve.

The lower prices get, the less willing customers are to pay higher prices and over time the pricing will be more determined by the actual cost of materials/labor.

For example, materials/labor have decreased dramatically when it comes to computers. Back in 1995 I would be very willing to pay $800+ for a machine with 16 MB of RAM, a 1.5 GB HDD, and a CD ROM drive. On the other hand, I doubt I'd be a buyer for a computer with those specs for $20 today, the decreased prices of today's superior machines have changed my expectations and what I'm willing to pay. It will be the same way with 3D printing, while today I might be willing to pay $100 for a factory-made part and would pay $75 for that same part if it was 3-D printed (since its a dramatic cost reduction and assuming the same quality) but another shop might be willing to sell that for $70, because of that, I'm less willing to pay the $75 at the other shop, meaning that shop needs to reduce its price to gain my business and so on.

Re:thermoplastic construction (4, Interesting)

c0lo (1497653) | about 10 months ago | (#43957431)

If assuming the repair shop invest in the 3D printer, wouldn't be the price determined by "what the customers in the serviced area are willing to pay" rather than the actual cost of materials/labor?

Not really. If we assume a competitive marketplace, we can assume that not every repair shop will charge the same price. If two shops have the same quality, or at least the same perceived quality, the cheaper shop will get more business, even though they might get less income per repair, they are likely to be more profitable due to the larger volume of customers they can serve.

Check your assumptions. Fermi problem [wikipedia.org] : how many piano tuners are there in Chicago?
How long until you don't have the conditions of a "pure free-market" in a serviced area?
E.g. how long 'til the prices offered by the mobile comms are not significantly different and the quality of their customer support is almost indistinguishable crappy?

It will be the same way with 3D printing, while today I might be willing to pay $100 for a factory-made part and would pay $75 for that same part if it was 3-D printed (since its a dramatic cost reduction and assuming the same quality) but another shop might be willing to sell that for $70, because of that, I'm less willing to pay the $75 at the other shop, meaning that shop needs to reduce its price to gain my business and so on.

You know... the higher the size of manufactured batches, the lower the production cost (because you can optimize better the cost, make large investment in complex tools with still good chances for a RoI, etc). Granted, the higher the size of manufactured batches, the lower flexibility (and possible the higher time to wait for a single item in the batch, if you take into consideration transport batches).
I surmise that, for series-made items, there will be no time in which the monetary cost of 3d printed item will be lower than the one for a factory-made item. 3D printing is good for unique items or items that are too complex to be made by any other technology.

Re:thermoplastic construction (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 10 months ago | (#43957145)

Because replacement parts will cost less because rather than have to have to make special procedures for every single different part for every different model, you can have a database with all possible parts for every possible model, when you need a certain part, just print it. No need for a massive inventory.

Furthermore, some parts might be made in "chunks" traditionally when only a smaller part is needed. For example, (while not a car part) consider a computer keyboard. You can find complete computer keyboards fairly often, and you might be able to find an entire key-set if you're lucky, but let's say that your "J" key popped off, or your spacebar popped off. It would be cheaper to print the part you needed than to buy an entire set of keys (or a new keyboard). With traditional manufacturing it makes sense to make things in bulk because you need specialized equipment for everything but if you have a general-purpose printer you can just print what you need.

Re:thermoplastic construction (4, Interesting)

c0lo (1497653) | about 10 months ago | (#43957523)

With traditional manufacturing it makes sense to make things in bulk because you need specialized equipment for everything but if you have a general-purpose printer you can just print what you need.

All well and good until you realize that, for a whole keyboard, you pay $6 [kmart.com] (or, how about about $0.09 for keyboard switch - electrical stuff included [aliexpress.com] ) and for a single 3D printed key cap you pay about $10.
Well, we can ignore the case of exquisitely unique keyboards [datamancer.net] , can we?

Re:thermoplastic construction (3, Interesting)

game kid (805301) | about 10 months ago | (#43956631)

I agree it brings promise for that, but a mighty LOL if you think they'll bring down the prices once the switch is made...

"Unfortunately, this time- and material-saving process is highly innovative and thus requires a great investment in 3D printers and intellectual property* that will bring prices up 'temporarily'," says the spokesmen for the automakers, insurance companies, and auto-repair shops today. The reps were confirmed to be making a so-called "air quote" gesture before "temporarily", followed by muffled giggles among themselves after.

*You don't really think someone won't try to add a wonderful 3D-Print-My-Parts insurance fee, or patent the specific process of 3D printing a car part, d'ya? Especially for each specific trademarked shape [nytimes.com] ? "We've only just beguuuuun..."

Re: thermoplastic construction (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43957007)

But most of the time "repair" means replace with a part from LKQ (I think that's their name) which is a 3rd party after market replacement. That's what most repairs consists of anymore

Re: thermoplastic construction (3, Informative)

fred911 (83970) | about 10 months ago | (#43958005)

While LKQ is also company it's an abbreviation for "like kind and quality", IE: aftermarket parts. Which isn't necessarily bad, but can be. If you insurer is requiring use of LKQ parts, you need a better insurer.

Re: thermoplastic construction (1)

Yfrwlf (998822) | about 10 months ago | (#43972935)

Yes, like no insurance, so that you're not gambling your money away your whole life. Also, the automobile industry should definitely not be encouraged in their free (for the rich) market price hikes of typical crash-related car parts which are largely in part due to the upward push from the insurance industry.

Re: thermoplastic construction (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43957047)

How about space? If all 3D printers relied on gravity, they'd never work in emergency space situation.

Re:thermoplastic construction (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43957331)

It's also applicable perhaps in the acoustic architectural space. Imagine being able to apply an acoustic covering to meet the exact needs of a room, auditorium, or other space.

Re:thermoplastic construction (1)

couchslug (175151) | about 10 months ago | (#43957365)

That would kick much ass for custom work too. If the color can be scanned then matched, even better!

Re:thermoplastic construction (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | about 10 months ago | (#43957423)

Will be hard to repair metal parts, and bumpers are quite cheap to produce as they're injection moulded. It's the labour needed to replace them that's expensive.

Re:thermoplastic construction (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43957831)

"Considering how effing expensive car repair is now"

Car repair doesn't have to be expensive, even now, and it used to not be so expensive. Those expensive prices are artificial in nature. Do you think auto companies are going to remove artificially high prices in the future or do you think they will continue to find ways to maintain them?

Re:thermoplastic construction (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43957951)

It's not just artistic. I can see a commercial application to this: Automobile fabrication. Think of how much faster you could produce them, and the reliability, if you could create a metal support shell and then bond arbitrary shapes of plastic to it. Creating the body of a vehicle... hell, repairing the body would be much easier. Just cut away the damaged section and press the button labelled "reform" and in a few hours, you've got yourself a new bumper. Didn't even have to repair the old one. Bonds with the original materials... just as strong as before.

Considering how effing expensive car repair is now, I can well imagine how well loved a bay with a 3D printer loaded for 'Car' would be. Next time someone keys your car, you get a crease in the door, whatever... just drive it into your handy 3D printer-equipped body shop and in an hour they're done and busy repainting the affected panel.

best car analogy of the day

Re:thermoplastic construction (1)

nuggz (69912) | about 10 months ago | (#43959443)

This is just a fancy tech laden "Bondo"

The problem with keying a car is the paint, not the structural damage.

BTW your local bodyshop should be able to pop out panels and touch up small scratches relatively cheaply, at least compared to replacing the part with a 3D printed replacement, which would still need to be painted.

Re:thermoplastic construction (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43959739)

Your sig is wrong for three reasons. There was no beginning since there was no time, it wasn't nothing; it was everything, it didn't explode; it changed.

Re:thermoplastic construction (1)

b4upoo (166390) | about 10 months ago | (#43962807)

I wonder how many people have a clue as to the potential of 3D printing. Printing housing is already a fact. Imagine forming the plumbing runs inside the plastic walls. The toilets and sinks could be printed as part of the structure as well. Instead of running conduit one simply prints tunnels for the wiring. A printed roof may need no overhang and that alone would add enormous wind resistance in a hurricane. This technology may displace almost the entire construction industry in short order.
                                    We do need to put plans in place for the safety and comfort of those whose work will be displaced by technology. The velocity of change is likely to increase rather radically as we are probably now at the toggle point at which computer intelligence and robotics seem to have unlimited growth of abilities.

Is everything "3D printing" now? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43956595)

A car factory uses robot arms to place metal parts in 3D! Therefore, cars are 3D printed!

Space Applications? (3, Informative)

sanman2 (928866) | about 10 months ago | (#43956739)

I agree - this seems more like computer-controlled extrusion, rather than a layered additive "printing" process.

That being said, I wonder what kind of useful structures it could make in outer space? Perhaps some kind of spiderweb structure to place solar panels on?

Re:Space Applications? (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 10 months ago | (#43957079)

Perhaps some kind of spiderweb structure to place solar panels on?

Which would probably shatter in the cold when put under stress.

Re: Space Applications? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43957635)

Since they claim the resin cures on contact with air, I'd question how well it works in space (outside human habitats, y'know, where you'd expect to be hanging solar panels) without wasting gases that you spent millions of dollars lifting to orbit. Then again, looking at the business end of the robot, I think the press coverage might be wrong; it might not be an aerobic cure, but the two things that looked like heat-guns pointing at it. There's two hoses to the nozzle, so it looks to me more like a simple two-part epoxy with heat to accelerate the cure, which could indeed work in space if you replace the hot-air guns with focused radiative heating (e.g. ellipsoidal reflector quartz-halogen capsule at one focus and the cure zone at the other).

Re: Space Applications? (3, Insightful)

nuggz (69912) | about 10 months ago | (#43959451)

The fact that they simultaneously claim it is a thermoplastic and that it cures confuses me.
Thermoplastics don't really cure, they just melt and "freeze", so what is it?

There are many uses for this (2)

ksandom (718283) | about 10 months ago | (#43957001)

Though its broad practicality is questioned outside artistic creations,

This absolutely could be used in all sorts of scenarios. In the most direct sense, it could be used to form wireframes for which other methods build on top of. It could even do traditional 3D printing without any change in equipment.

Every limitation that I can think of or have seen written here can easily be solved. This is a good idea.

Re:There are many uses for this (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 10 months ago | (#43957275)

At the end of the video, the robot arm folds up; the way it did this and the framing of the shot reminded me of WALLE in such a way that I thought it was about to roll off and make another copy of the artwork it had just constructed, like a demented robot gardener—alas, it had no wheels.

Note to self: when rich, get robotic arm to sculpt perlin volume topiaries.

Toy (3)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 10 months ago | (#43957069)

All it is is a extruder on a robotic arm. Here are some issues;
1. It is inaccurate. Look at the rods it procuces. They have dents and bulges. The on/off looks pretty messy as the large extrusion just stops.
2. It is low resolution. The rods look to be about half an inch around.
3. It does not print a solid shape other than a rod.
4. Fragile material
6. Adhesion to new materials. Can new materiel even adhere to the older material once dry?
7. Inability to make a flat surface.

By the way, I think that it is a heat cured epoxy considering the two extrusion cylinders and the heat guns.

Re:Toy (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43959719)

Sadly there are a lot of people that will believe this story.

I used to program ABB rotobs for a living. These types of dispensers are used in the automotive industry to apply glue to certain parts of cars.

The videos are time lapsed and sped up.

These robots can be hung in any direction, sideways upside down etc.. I have a hard time believing the stuff is being dispensed and dried real time, on a while horizontally.

Looks like some kind of secreted resin... (1)

Pav (4298) | about 10 months ago | (#43962063)

*blink blink* ... nuke it from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

One step closer (2)

Carnivore24 (467239) | about 10 months ago | (#43957459)

Finally we will be able to start crafting some real Materia such as X-Summon, Bahamut ZERO, and even Knights of the Round.

Re:One step closer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43958975)

Personally I am waiting for W-Item. Finally I can be rich. All those things in my back pocket just doubled in value.

Finally! (1)

venicebeach (702856) | about 10 months ago | (#43957507)

Sometimes it takes a lifetime for technology to catch up with your dreams. I now have hope that I will soon be able to construct the horizontal twisting linguini model I have always been envisioning.

Stabilization of partially collapsed structures? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43957875)

There are likely numerous applications for this printer. One example I can see is to stabilize structures which have been partially destroyed by some natural disasters, explosive devices or good old fashioned US dilapidation. It seems that the printer could be attached to a movable robot which could allow it to work in tight places without the loss of life. I would like to patent this under terms of the FSF, a la Manfred Manx.

Finally! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43957927)

I can replicate my greatest turds to share with future generations!

Security application (2)

Circlotron (764156) | about 10 months ago | (#43958895)

1/ Get prisoner to stand in convenient position, even at crime scene. 2/ Print bars around prisoner. 3/ Handball situation to someone else.

Khepri (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43963391)

Reminds me of what the Khepri do with their spit in New Crobuzon.

And how would sir like his moon base? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43967755)

Replace air with infrared and maybe this could build our moon base from the inside out?!
It could probably even "fill the holes" if a leak occurs..
Just putting it out there..

Hi everyone, (1)

Shariq Pak (2951463) | about 10 months ago | (#44005223)

Wow that's amazing. I'd love to see commercialisation of the idea an advanced AI swarm of tractor beams. Precise control of light can place the dust and then either the same laser or other lasers can change the phase from dust to metal with atomic precision.
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