Open source fans, which include much of the 3D printing community, rejoiced in March when Aleph Objects, maker of the beloved open source LulzBot 3D printers, announced that they had partnered with 3D printing service provider and filament manufacturer IC3D to develop the first-ever open source filament for desktop 3D printers. “Freedom – soon to be extruded!” the LulzBot website exulted. The soft launch took place at the Midwest RepRap festival in March, and today, as RAPID + TCT begins its second day, the two companies are announcing the full availability of the new open source material.
Aleph Objects and IC3D worked closely together on the development of the project, beginning by opening up IC3D’s ABS filament. IC3D has released a 16-page white paper, now available on GitHub, detailing their filament manufacturing process, parameters, material grades, and much more. By doing so, the company has blown the door open on what, until now, has been the secretive process of filament manufacturing.
While there are plenty of open source 3D printers and software programs, filament has been a stubbornly proprietary area of 3D printing. Many manufacturers design their 3D printers with open filament systems, meaning that any brand may be used, but that’s as open as materials have gotten – the details of the materials themselves have been hidden behind closed doors. IC3D now invites the public into their secret room, sharing the details of the full development and manufacturing process from start to finish.
“Proprietary materials should not be an impediment to advancing the use of 3D printed objects for certified parts and other industrial applications,” said IC3D Founder and CEO Michael Cao. “IC3D is committed to open source 3D printing consumables. LulzBot and Aleph Objects’ focus on open source has been an inspiration to IC3D and we’re pleased that they will be reselling IC3D consumables.”
It’s hard to think of a better partner than Aleph Objects for bringing the first open source filament to the world, in fact – the company’s philosophy has always been that everything should be shared, and the Aleph/LulzBot team is full of experts in file and process sharing and the other intricacies of open source, for which they imparted best practices as IC3D worked towards the release.
“The future of the 3D printing industry is open,” Aleph Objects President Harris Kenny said. “IC3D is demonstrating impressive vision by bringing the Philosophy of User Freedom to filament manufacturing, and we are proud to be working alongside them.”
In October, the Open Source Hardware Association (OSHWA) established a program allowing for self-certification of open source hardware products, based on strict community-developed guidelines. LulzBot 3D printers are OSHWA-certified, as well as being the only 3D printers with Respects Your Freedom certification from the Free Software Foundation. Now, with OSHWA-certified filament available for the first time, makers can go entirely open source for their projects, beginning to end. That also opens up the possibility of certification for 3D printed parts, as the software and hardware material used to make them can be 100% open source.
“The desktop 3D printing industry was born from collaboration and shared innovation,” Kenny told 3DPrint.com. “Companies built in this new paradigm are going to solve problems by working together in unprecedented ways to benefit users and advance technology forward.”
IC3D’s filament is now available for purchase on the LulzBot website, and if you’re at RAPID, you can stop by the LulzBot booth, #1829, to check it out and assemble your own LulzBot spinner 3D printed with the material. Meanwhile, keep an eye on GitHub as IC3D continues to share their material development processes.
“Desktop 3D printers have been instrumental in opening this technology and pulling it forward into homes and small businesses worldwide. However, a new day is dawning for 3D printing consumables,” Cao told 3DPrint.com. “Consumers ought to know what their materials are made of. IC3D is moving forward to open source 3D print materials and bring unprecedented collaboration to this area. It is the next critical step for this emerging industry to grow and transition from prototyping to mainstream manufacturing. Whether you are 3D printing toys, cars, commercial airplanes or components for battleships, open source platforms like Lulzbot and IC3D are a service for the entire nation.”
What do you think about open source materials? Share your thoughts in the Open Source Filament forum at 3DPB.com.