For a city with millennia of history, London is singularly in tune with the future, as I relearned this past week in my first visit in a decade. I was headquartered for the week across the street from the world-famous British Museum, mere steps at any given point from the Rosetta Stone — but also just a few minutes’ walk from high-tech enterprises in any direction. On Thursday, 3 March, I walked over to a center of tech know-how, which I’ve been reading about for some time thanks to my work here at 3DPrint.com, and have finally had the good fortune to see in person: iMakr‘s London location, which was hosting the Desktop 3D Printing Show.
Upon walking into the store that afternoon, I was greeted by an impressive crowd; as it turns out, more than 600 people had reserved tickets ahead of time for the event. With a broad variety of exhibitors present, both attendees and booths were plentiful. The London storefront space for iMakr consists of two levels that, for this event, were teeming with machines at work, created objects to examine, and fresh prints coming off printers as immediate proofs of concept.
With 15 speakers lined up from 15 companies, each presenting for about 15 minutes, throughout the evening, the lower level of the store housed a dedicated presentation space in one corner, with the rest of the space being dedicated to booths (and, fortunately, some wine and snacks). I was impressed especially by the iMakr team, as everyone wearing a logo T-shirt was constantly on the move ensuring smooth operations, answering questions, queuing up PowerPoint presentations, and generally being vigilant and attentive. For a space that operates primarily as a store, this team was spot-on at operating in a tradeshow setting.
“The store,” Eric Savant, iMakr’s CEO, told me, “is basically a permanent tradeshow.”
Suddenly it all made more sense.
Talking with Savant provided a great deal of clarity into not only iMakr’s individual experiences expanding through the 3D printing space, but a better look at the industry as a whole.
“People are asking better questions,” Savant told me, noting that this is a harbinger of growth in any industry. “You can tell a lot about how much people understand by the kinds of questions they ask.”
The people walking in off the street still ask about what’s going on in this 3D printing haven, of course, but the questions are changing track. Initial inquiries are now less along the lines of, “So, what is this thing?” and more in terms of, “What is the resolution here?” or “What materials are used?” Because iMakr works with several 3D printing companies, displaying and offering their products, the store is in a unique position to see first-hand how these products are performing–and how customers are responding to them.
At the Gizmo 3D booth near to the presentation space, Savant introduced me to iMakr engineer Dejan Vodopija. We were able to watch a new print early in the stages of creation on the super-fast Gizipro 2x.
Seeing the prints live was pretty impressive and, oddly, what impressed me most was the print that had failed. When many desktop 3D printers fail mid-print, it’s all lost, and there goes a few hours of work. The failed print at Gizmo 3D’s booth, though, was not one I’d immediately identified as such; there was a hole in the back of a figure, but the print had continued all around the hole, including above and below it, and from the front of the figure, it couldn’t even be seen.
Additionally, the benefit of a DLP machine like this is that it allows for use of the full build plate, creating two (or more) identical prints at the same time–in the same amount of time that one print might take, rather than on an FDM machine where it would take twice as long for the single extruder to make its way to both prints. This printer is ideal for hollowed-out objects, and uses an MP4 movie format for the projector. The trick, Vodopija told me, is to sync up the speed of the sink and the drop of the tray, for which the MP4 format is working nicely, effectively allowing users to print with movies.
Vodopija has tested this fast printer previously, showcasing his findings:
Watching Gizmo 3D’s machine in action was surely a highlight of the event for me — the finished print rising from the goop definitely raised the all-important ‘cool’ factor — but the best part of the evening was, for me, just how much there was to see. Keep an eye out for more coverage from the iMakr Desktop 3D Printing Show right here!