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Mattel’s New ThingMaker

February 27, 2016

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,entertainment,future — Terry Wohlers @ 06:36

I’m old enough to remember the Creepy Crawler ThingMaker of the 1960s. I did not own one, but a neighbor friend did, and we made many plastic worms and bugs with it. We had fun with the simple product, even though we were limited to the shapes available from the small molds that came with it.

Fast forward a half century to two weeks ago. At the New York Toy Fair, Mattel announced that it is introducing a new ThingMaker that takes advantage of 3D printing. Price: $299. For me, this is an exciting announcement, given that I have put considerable thought into the idea over the past two decades. I even ran it by film producer James Cameron back in 2010 and he liked it.

thingmaker

Sure wish I could take credit for the idea, but I cannot. In the 1990s, Charles (Chuck) Johnson, then with the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, shared with me a future vision of 3D printing. He imagined a child waking up on a weekend morning and going to the kitchen for breakfast. The child switches on a device and then pours dry cereal, such as Cheerios, into it. She then pours milk into a reservoir inside the device. Viewing a small display, she selects a number of digital action figures that’s available and then readies the small machine.

The 3D printer grinds the cereal into fine powder and spreads it, as a print head jets milk for binder, layer by layer. If you’ve ever spilled milk, you know that it becomes sticky as it dries. After minutes of printing, she removes the action figures from the bed of powder, brushes them off, and then eats them.

Mattel’s new ThingMaker does not work like this, but it has a chance of becoming as popular as what Johnson had envisioned so many years ago. Over the past, I’ve shared his story with many groups and most found it interesting. Perhaps the new ThingMaker, slated to become available in October, will be a stepping stone toward Johnson’s cereal printer.

Autodesk has partnered with Mattel to provide software and an easy way to create 3D content—a key to success, in my opinion. So, stay tuned. It could be the beginning of something big.

NextEngine 3D Scanner

February 13, 2016

Filed under: CAD/CAM/CAE,review — Terry Wohlers @ 07:59

When NextEngine introduced its first 3D scanner at SolidWorks World 2006, it got my attention. The product is based on the company’s patented MultiStripe Laser Triangulation (MLT) technology. At the time, it was the lowest priced scanner of its kind. If my memory serves me correctly, the price of the new Ultra HD version is the same as it was back then (base price of $2,995), yet the scan quality is now far better.

The small Ultra HD unit is capable of 268,000 points per 6.5 sq cm (1 sq inch), which is very good for such a low-cost product. NextEngine publishes an accuracy of +/- 0.125 mm (0.005 inch), although it is capable of +/- 0.025 mm (0.001 inch) accuracy under optimal conditions, according to Dan Gustafson, director of marketing at the Santa Monica, California company. When running the scanner in “Optional Extended Range Mode,” which covers a scan envelope of 55.9 x 41.9 x 27.9 cm (22 x 16.5 x 11 inches), accuracy is +/- 1.14 mm (0.045 inch).

An interesting tool for comparing low-cost 3D scanning options is located here. Click each of the models near the bottom of the window and play around with them. When selecting one, it splits the window into quadrants, as shown in the following example, with each representing a different scanning solution. Click and drag the circle at the center to increase or decrease the size of the quadrants. Click the small circles near the bottom to create different views of the 3D model.

nextengine

The functionality built into the NextEngine website is one of the best and most effective I’ve seen for comparing products. My only suggestion would be to include at least one product that is priced similarly or higher than the Ultra HD scanner. Other than that, the people at NextEngine have nailed it. Congratulations to NextEngine for 10 years of commercializing low-cost 3D scanning products based on MLT technology.

Nano Dimension

February 2, 2016

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future — Terry Wohlers @ 07:07

Nano Dimension is an Israeli company that is producing a 3D printer for making printed circuit boards. The machine and sample PCBs are on display at SolidWorks World 2016 here in Dallas, Texas. The dual printhead machine uses material jetting technology to deposit photopolymer as the base material and a silver nanoparticle ink for the conductive traces.

The printhead deposits the silver in layers that are 2 microns in thickness. It took about 75 minutes to print the circuit board pictured in the following. Light is used to fully cure the photopolymer and sinter the silver.

nano-dimension

The build volume of the machine is 20 x 20 x 0.3 cm (7.9 x 7.9 x 0.12 inches). In the future, the company hopes to increase the Z dimension to permit the printing of circuits that are fully integrated into a design.

Nano Dimension’s software accepts standard PCB Gerber design files, as well as STEP, JPG, and TIFF files. The company is hoping that SolidWorks Corp. and other companies will develop software that takes advantage of the machine’s capabilities.

The company expects to commercialize and ship machines later this year.