World’s First Analog 3D Printer – Requires no computers, software or electricity

In today’s society, we tend to focus a lot more on creating perfect looking objects, in a way that is the most affordable, and quickest to produce. This is evident when you compare certain products that were made decades ago, with those that we purchase today.  According to some people, quality has taken a hit, and artistic ability has dwindled quite a bit, with the advancements of technology. 3D printers are the new way of creating ‘things’, taking the place of yesterday’s methods of building items from scratch using tools, and raw materials such as wood, to carve, bend, chisel and cut our ways to making attractive and useful objects.

Slowly but surely the arts of painting and sculpting are taking a back seat to advanced photography, mechanically engineered products, and machine created works of art. One artist, named Daniël de Bruin, has gone against the grain, in creating a spectacular 3D printer, that is unique in every possible sense of the word.

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Daniël de Bruin’s analog 3D printer

While all of the 3D printers that we know of today utilize an elaborate computerized and electrical system in order to operate, Bruin wanted to create a machine that was completely manual. He wanted to reclaim the ability to create works of art, without relying on a computer to do it for him.

“3D printing allows me to create products more swiftly and more efficiently than ever,” Bruin explained. “But these products are not mine. They are merely a product of this new technology.”

So Bruin got the ingenious idea of creating a 3D printing machine that doesn’t rely on any fancy computer software, or the need to be plugged into an electrical source. Bruin’s 3D printer would have been a device you could have used back in the 18th century, prior to the advent of electricity and modern day computers. His 3D printer starts working when the user lifts a 15KG weight. By doing so, the machine starts moving. “The weight allows me to [still] be connected with the process because there is no external force involved like electricity; it’s still me that’s making the print,” explained Bruin. “By physically building and powering the machine, the products that come out of it are the result of all the energy that has gone into it.”

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Bruin tells 3DPrint.com that the machine only needs the user to lift the weight every 10 minutes. “That is how long the weight takes on its slowest speed to reach the end,” he informed us. Once the weight hits the bottom, it must be lifted up once again, and the printing process resumes.  For some objects, the weight must be lifted up to 8 times.  The print speed can be changed by twisting the ‘wings’ on the machine, which increase or decreases the air resistance on the falling weight.

In order to control the shape of the objects being printed, Bruin can’t rely on sophisticated modeling software like that of traditional 3D printers. Instead, he uses something as simple as an aluminum wire, that can be changed for each object he prints. The different shapes of the wire push the platform to one side or another, as it moves down and extrudes material. This causes the radius of the circle to change, and the machine to print in different shapes.

Not only are the objects that are printed on this incredible machine very artistic in nature, but the printer itself is a piece of art as well.  Only a brilliant artist could come up with an idea so imaginative, unique, and timeless as this incredible analog 3D printer.

A vase that was printed on Bruin's analogue 3D printer

A vase that was printed on Bruin’s analog 3D printer

This 3D printer took Bruin 9 months of his spare time to create, and was constructed in phases. Starting out, there was no fixed plan on how to make any of the individual components that it consists of.

bruin-quote-image-right“I started by making the pressing mechanism, rack and propulsion, Bruin told us. “I tested those mechanisms thoroughly, and in the meantime [was] sketching and thinking how to make the printing platform. There were a lot of factors to think about and even more to choose from. The biggest challenge was to keep the wall thickness the same when the radius becomes bigger. I solved this problem in the most simple way I could imagine. The extrusion rate is always the same, so for a smaller radius the platform needs to spin faster and visa versa. On the guiding mechanism you can see two gray plates (see image to right). The right one is the driven plate, the left one is the follow plate. They are connected by a small wheel in between. This wheel is in a fixed position and always on the bottom outside of the driven one. When the following plate moves left or right the radius changes and the follow plate begins to change speed.”

Printing on Bruin’s machine is actually a faster process than that of traditional FDM 3D printers. This is because the nozzle diameter is approximately 2mm, instead of 0.35mm – 0.4mm on standard 3D printers. Because of this there will be a slight loss in quality. While the examples shown here are of objects printed in a clay material, Bruin said that it can print in a multitude of materials, including clay, pasta, wall filler, starch bio plastics, and anything else that can fit through the nozzle and doesn’t need to be heated.

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This analog 3D printer, as Bruin refers to it, cost him only €150 in materials, but required a lot of time milling, drilling and metal spinning, all by hand without the use of any CNC machinery. “I tried to make most components myself, except for some chains and sprockets,” he explained.

While he told us that he would love to sell machines like this, he believes it would cost a lot more than the typical 3D printers that you see on the market today. This is obviously because of the long process of building the machine, all by hand. He did say that an added benefit would be the fact that you would save on your electric bill. “I am planning to make usable products with the printer and sell them instead of the machine,” he said.

2Daniël de Bruin is currently a product designer at the Art Acedemy in Utrecht, Netherlands. When asked if he has plans to produce more of these 3D printers, he informed us that he would love to, but he’d like to create one with more options.  Having said this, he currently doesn’t have the time needed. “Maybe next year [after] my graduation,” he explained.

Without a doubt, this is the most incredible 3D printer I have ever come across. It totally changes the artistic presence behind 3D printing, and shows that even though we are an advanced technological society, that relies heavily on electronic devices and sophisticated computer algorithms, there is still the possibility of creating machines like Bruin’s that rely on nothing but physics, and architecture alone.

Here is a video demonstrating Bruin’s analog 3D printer in action:

For those wishing to see Bruin’s masterpiece as well as other incredible works of art, it is currently on display at Exbunker (Wilhelminapark 24, 3581 NE Utrecht, The Netherlands) until the end of this month.  What do you think of this analog 3D printer? Would you consider buying one if Bruin were to elect to mass produce them? Do you consider the process of printing on it to be more artistic in nature than printing on a computerized 3D printer? Discuss in the Analog 3D Printer forum thread on 3DPB.com

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