September 28, 2013
Printing With Science
By now, almost everyone has heard of 3D printing. It is the ability to take a blueprint of an idea and print out a fully three-dimensional object. This technology has been available for a few years now, so to many people it is nothing new, though it remains incredibly impressive. The ability to input a basic design and pull out a fully replicated object made to your exact specifications is incredible. Already this technology has seen use in construction, automotive and industrial design, fashion, the medical industry, and even in food. The only real limit that exists on it now is the availability of a 3D printer. Soon, that might change.
Recently funded by a Kickstarter campaign, the Form 1 is the first massively available 3D printer on the market. Sure, it has a starting price of $2,799.00, but the potential advantage of being able to mass produce your own product will mean that this initial investment will be well worth it for a lot of consumers. Being able to produce your own finished product without having to go through some other manufacturer will save both a lot of time and resources for many small businesses that will, hopefully, also lead to reduced costs for consumers. Currently, most high quality 3D printers cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, so by comparison, the Form 1 is quite affordable.
The Form 1 can print layers as small as 0.001 inches thin with details as small as 0.0012 inches. The total volume of what can be made by the Form 1 is 125 x 125 x165 mm, or roughly 4.9 x 4.9 x 6.5 inches. Sure, not that big, but the Form 1 was designed to be small, relatively light, and easily transportable, allowing businesses to take it out on the road with them should they need. It was also designed to have a very intuitive design system, allowing the designers to easily input their ideas into the device and achieve a finished product very quickly. Currently, the Form 1 uses a neutral matte gray liquid plastic that works great for models, standalone parts, and as a base color for objects to be painted. Once it is launched, as it did have a successful Kickstarter campaign, there will be continued development of new materials that will vary in color, transparency, flexibility, and more. The Form 1 is a stereolithography printer. Stereolithography is the best sort of 3D printer on the market. It uses a laser to draw on the surface of liquid plastic, which hardens when exposed to a specific source of light. The laser draws a single layer at a time, hardening them as it goes, until the entire design is finished.
Created by Formlabs, the Form 1 will likely be available sometime in the near future, bringing a new option of design and production to many small businesses and manufacturers.
Image Credit: Formlabs