3D Printing: The Stories We Didn’t Cover This Week — June 13, 2015

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This week’s stories we missed may produce a heavy sigh for those wondering how they can merge all of their favorite pastimes — eating potato chips, building with Legos, controlling a 3D printed robot with your smartphone — together in one experience. PepsiCo kicks off the news with a 3D printed Deeply Ridged and patented potato chip; a Kickstarter campaign proves quite successful for small electronic blocks to augment Lego sets; and the IoBot just makes it easier and easier to print and control robots. Way cool. Then we move on to a company merger, a new metal extruder, a mini ceramic printer, and a bundle of HP blended reality products available ahead of the Multi Jet Fusion printer release. But let’s start with the essential items here, people: potato chips.

Pepsi 3D Prints Potato Chips

chipWell, gee, let’s just go ahead and get this one about 3D printed potato chips done before I get too hungry and want to try some. “What?” you ask. 3D printed potato chips! It appears with the advent of PepsiCo’s fiscal decline due to consumer awareness of health and whole foods’ advantages, CEO Indra Nooyi has doubled the research and development budget for the company… But how does that lead to 3D printed potato chips? The new Deep Ridged chips were developed using a 3D model and printer to create a thick and, well, for lack of a better description, deeply ridged chip experience. But that’s not all! Dr. Mehmood Khan, Pepsi’s chief scientific officer, explains the company has produced “multiple layers of IP” with patents on the Deep Ridge potato chip design, but also the cutter and the “mouth experience.” What’s a “mouth experience?” I know deeper ridges would help keep the dip situated as it travels from bowl to mouth– can that be patented too? Not quite sure how this addressess the issue of healthier snacking, but kudos to Pepsi for introducing the idea of a patented “mouth experience” into my vocabulary.

 Electronic Legos are Here

legoWhile potato chips are under no real threat of going away because they are such an established and ubiquitous aspect of the American snacking experience, another American pastime, Legos, is also making a comeback via STEM education and the world of 3D printing. Capitalizing on this new Lego resurgence, Lunchbox Electronics takes the Lego concept to another, well, electronic level through Build Upons: World’s Tiniest Light Up Bricks. This Kickstarter campaign has almost reached its $30,000 goal with two whole weeks left before its June 25th end date, only proving how popular the concept of Lego augmentation is becoming via smaller lit up blocks. Think about how cool it would be to surprise your kids as they build another one of their humdrum Lego villages: “Hey guys! We can add some street lights, now!” The blocks are 3D printed using a LulzBot TAZ 3D printer. The team put an LED onto a custom-made Gold Phoenix circuit board that was then embedded into the 3D printed brick. That’s the simple and partial explanation for how these things work!

Internet/Smartphone-Controlled, Arduino-Based, 3D Printed IoBot  Arrives 

robotAs your children start to outgrow Legos (yes, they really are supposed to so you can put those blocks down now), robotics just seems to get easier and more accessible to young makers. Yes, sir, robotics is an age-appropriate hobby! The IoBot‘s arms, head, and body do tricks via an easy USB or LAN connection–which seems to make robotics that much easier, as this is open-source and takes a simple click to download. Directions are available on Instructables, and from the looks of this cute robot, it is likely to gain a fan base because knowledge of programming languages isn’t required. But any prior programming foundation helps to customize it.

Two More 3D Print Companies Collaborate!

ULUnderwriters Laboratories (UL) and additive manufacturing company 3DSIM LLC have agreed to advance 3D printing process simulations, with UL investing in 3DSIM and becoming a minority shareholder in the company. This also means that Simin Zhou, Vice President of Digital Manufacturing Technologies at UL, will be joining the 3DSIM Board of Directors. 3DSIM produces software tools that conduct physics-based analyses of 3D printing processes before printing a component. The startup plans to bring quality assurance to industrial 3D printing, and it will make available the first metal 3D printer that will use 3DSIM’s print preview technology. A collaboration between a quality-assurance software designer and a respected voice in safety and certification is good news, right, open source community of dedicated makers? Right?

Micron 3DP’s All-Metal COBRA Extruder

cobraIt has always been my novice 3D printing contention that filament is the blood of 3D printing. It’s that important in having an overall effect on our conceptions of what is possible to print. But if filament is blood, what’s the extruder? The arteries? Micron 3DP has come through with a new advance in the area of improved extruder function: the COBRA promises to make it easier to print with flexible plastic filaments because it is an all-metal extruder. What’s special about metal? Heat! Many extruders contain Teflon tubing or other plastic parts that can’t tolerate heat well: all-metal extruders allow for continuous printing up to 315 degrees Celsius and use less common filaments like nylons and high-temp PLA. Micron 3DP is planning to release a special COBRA extruder capable of reaching up to 400 degrees; filaments such as Ultem, PEEK and Carbon reinforced PEEK will work in this extruder environment.

LUTUM 3D Ceramic Printer — It’s Mini Now!

miniVormVrij 3D has unveiled its custom ceramic mini-printer, after a very successful roll out of its LUTUM clay 3D printer. The mini-printer’s build volume and size is smaller because many people could not accommodate the size of the larger machine. The build volume and overall dimension have changed but the specs are the same. Instead of 650 x 740 x 800 mm, this machine’s build volume is 45 x 45 x 45 cm. That’s a big change. Fablabs and makerspaces now only have to cough up €3950 (about$4450 USD) to have their own ceramic printer — and the price includes one XL clay tank, a control box, a pressure control system, and an extruder in addition to the printer, of course. You will need an air compressor, some clay, and a good old fashioned kiln for post-processing. So there’s still some use here for the stuff you used before the machines came to take clay hand-building away!

‘Blended Reality’ Ecosystems Becoming Available as Bundles

hpGood news for blended reality fans. Instead of waiting for the Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing technology to launch next year, HP is kicking off its blended reality ecosystem now in a bundled package. The Dremel 3D Idea Builder (a re-branded Flashforge Creator) is part of this package. Users can use the Sprout for designing and bring designs into the physical world using Autodesk’s Spark 3D printing software and a 3D printer. And, when Multi Jet Fusion becomes public, Sprout users can prototype their designs on the 3D Idea Builder before using HP’s own 3D printing system to produce their finished design concepts. Sounds groovy to me!

Let us know what you think of these developments in the Stories We Missed forum thread over at

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