February 09, 2009
Dimension uPrint Personal 3D Printer Introduced
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| by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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The Dimension 3D Printing Group, a business unit of Stratasys, Inc. launched the uPrint Personal 3D Printer (priced at $14,900 USD) at the annual Dimension reseller conference in Anaheim, California.
uPrint is available for purchase immediately through authorized resellers and joins Dimension’s market-leading line of 3D Printers. Designed for the desktop, uPrint requires only a 25 x 26 in. footprint and features an 8 x 6 x 6 in. build envelope. Using Dimension’s proven FDM technology, uPrint builds models with Stratasys ABSplus — a material on average 40 percent stronger than the company’s standard ABS material, making it ideally suited for testing the form, fit and function of models and prototypes. uPrint also features a soluble support removal system, allowing for hands-free removal of the model support material.
As a personal 3D printer, uPrint makes 3D printing immediate and convenient through every design iteration. There’s no waiting in queue for a shared printer and no waiting for models to arrive from an outside service.
“uPrint is an important advance for Dimension’s product line, providing users a networked, desktop-sized 3D printer capable of building durable, accurate models ready for testing,” said Jon Cobb, vice president and general manager of 3D printing for Stratasys. “uPrint will appeal to designers, engineers, architects, artists, teachers and others working in CAD. With uPrint, they can get an affordable, high-quality 3D modeling system that’s available today.”
The Dimension 3D Printing Group is a business unit of Stratasys, Inc., based in Minneapolis, Minn. Dimension 3D printers – which include uPrint, the Elite, the Dimension 1200es Series and the Dimension 768 Series – are networked, desktop modeling systems that provide CAD (Computer Aided Design) users a fast, office-friendly, low-cost alternative for building functional 3D parts. Dimension 3D printers build accurate models layer by layer using durable ABS plastic, allowing users to not only evaluate design concepts, but test 3D prints for functionality, form and fit. With the first large-format desktop 3D printer that sells for less than $30,000, Dimension incorporates many
key features found in modeling systems that cost tens of thousands of dollars more.
Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor
Does the announcement of the uPrint Personal 3D Printer finally usher in the era of 3D printing for everybody? At $15,000 it’s still a bit out of the price range of casual users, but might be the start of the 3D printing revolution that has been promised for a several years now by some vendors and industry pundits.
For a long time I’ve been intrigued by the idea of a 3D printer that I could actually afford to produce designs that I create as 3D objects. Admittedly, there have been a few possibilities before the uPrint Personal 3D Printer – a couple open source projects (Fab@Home and RepRap), and a private corporate endeavor that has promised/threatened to come to market “anytime soon” for the past couple of years (Desktop Factory). So let’s take a quick look at what’s out there . . .
Fab@Home is a project dedicated to making and using so-called fabbers - machines that can make things on your desktop. This website provides everything you need to know in order to build or buy your own simple fabber, and to use it to print three dimensional objects. The hardware designs and software on the website are free and open-source. Once you have your own fabber, you can also download and print various items, try new materials, or upload and share your own projects. Advanced users are encouraged to modify and improve the fabber itself.
Fabbers, also known as 3D printers or rapid prototyping machines, are a manufacturing method that builds 3D objects by depositing materials drop by drop, layer by layer. With the proper materials and CAD geometry, you can fabricate complex objects that would normally take special resources, tools and skills if produced using conventional manufacturing techniques. Just as MP3s, iPods and the Internet have opened up audio and video, the organizers of Fab@Home are hoping that their project will democratize innovation.
There is actually a commercial Fab@Home chassis kit available called the Koba Industries Fabber, and is available starting at $2,750. The same company also built a fabber last year out of wood. Pretty interesting stuff!
Another one of the more interesting formal and informal topics of conversation I’ve engaged in over the past few years is a rapid prototyping machine that could actually manufacture its own component parts. The RepRap Project is generally acknowledged as one of the more advanced for doing just this. The idea behind this and similar projects is that a new machine can be almost entirely manufactured and assembled inexpensively from the same material that the rapid prototyping machine uses to make prototypes. Self-replication techniques, such as this could considerably reduce the cost of prototyping machines in the future, not to mention as the objects they are capable of
The RepRap (short for Replicating Rapid-prototyper) project is working toward creating hardware and software as a universal constructor system by using rapid prototyping, and then, on an open-source basis, giving the results away free under the GNU General Public License to allow other investigators to work on the same idea and improve it.
The RepRap machine is made of plastic parts and makes plastic parts, so it can literally make copies of itself. It has a build cost of less than $500, and the full plans and documentation are available for others to use and improve upon.
RepRap has been conceived as a complete replication system rather than simply a piece of hardware – the system includes CAD and CAM software and drivers that convert RepRap digital designs into physical objects. The RepRap system uses the open source Art of Illusion (AoI) 3D modeling system as its front end. AoI is well-suited for this purpose both because of its ability to model 3D objects and because it is written in the Java programming language. The core AoI modeling platform is tailored to the needs of the RepRap project via scripts. RepRap's CAM system has also been written in Java.
The goal of the RepRap project is not so much to produce just a self-replicating device for it own sake, as much as it is an effort to put in the hands of others, for a minimal financial outlay, a desktop manufacturing system that can manufacture physical objects.
Finally, there is the Desktop Factory 125ci, the long awaited, long overdue 3D printer that was supposed to revolutionize 3D printing because of its build envelope (5 x 5 x 5 inches) and price, $4,995. In its latest stall tactic, the company recently announced that it went through a complete redesign of a major printer sub system. What this means exactly and how it will further postpone its actual arrival on the market is anybody’s guess. Great concept, less than stellar execution, and still no firm delivery date.
So, will low-cost 3D printers cause a real revolution for the widespread use of rapid prototyping by the masses? Is it time for 3D printing to become truly personal? Although it’s been slow in coming, I thinks it’s inevitable, so . . . Viva la Revolución!
The Week’s Top 5
At MCADCafé we track many things, including the stories that have attracted the most interest from our subscribers. Below are the five news items that were the most viewed during last week.
CAD Schroer Group (CSG) announced the latest release of the free trial version of STHENO/PRO ADVANCED, a drafting solution fully integrated with Pro/ENGINEER, Pro/INTRALINK, and Windchill PDMLink for consolidating model and drawing-based product development processes. The latest release can now be downloaded. Version 3.1.1 introduces support for the latest Pro/ENGINEER release, along with many new productivity tools, especially in the areas of advanced drafting and data exchange, along with a long list of improvements and enhancements. In addition to all the functionality contained in the STHENO/PRO ADVANCED package, such as SMART Edit, Drilling Tables, Tolerance Tables and Symbol
Libraries for 50 DIN/EN/ISO standards, the free trial also includes the STHENO/IMAGE COLOUR raster module for incorporating legacy data and colour images in raster format. Download at:
Firehole Unveils Helius:MCT Composite Analysis Software
3D ContentCentral 2009, the newest version of the online service, includes an array of self-publishing tools that enable suppliers to build vast catalogs of 3D models by simply clicking a mouse. New social networking tools let 3D ContentCentral users build Facebook-like communities of members for sharing knowledge on components and suppliers. More than 450,000 registered users use 3D ContentCentral to find configurable models of engineering components from hundreds of suppliers. With this upgrade, DS SolidWorks is transforming 3D ContentCentral from an online catalog to an interactive online community where product designers and suppliers can exchange information on an infinite range
of design issues.
OPEN MIND Technologies AG recently completed NC postprocessors for many Mori Seiki machine tool models. These developments include on-machine testing at Mori Seiki Technology Centers and further review and confirmation by Mori Seiki's Digital Technology Laboratory (DTL). These postprocessors are available to connect hyperMILL software to Mori Seiki mills and mill-turn machining centers. For the NMV-series, NT-series, and NL-SY series machines, OPEN MIND hyperMILL customers can now obtain uniform, proven postprocessors. OPEN MIND has a strong postprocessor philosophy centered on a fixed core with a broad set of configurable parameters. With this approach, OPEN MIND customers have the
assurance provided by the experienced development team, yet the flexibility to activate/deactivate various control functions or customize header and trailer command sequences. OPEN MIND postprocessors use advanced machine-control functions such as tool center point management (TCP), dynamic fixture offsets, and allows functions such as canned cycles on frames (tilted workplanes). OPEN MIND also provides a consistent environment for mill-turn applications, where milling and turning machining cycles can be used within one job and in any sequence. Various program utilities such as in-process stock models, tool database, simulation, and machine postprocessors can work in a uniform environment
with combinations of milling and turning cycles.
Trace Software announced elecworks designed to cover the electrical and automation needs of the SolidWorks engineering offices. elecworks increases collaboration between electrical and mechanical teams and allows them to create automation and electrical installation projects better designed with faster documentation generation. elecworks allows users to work on all areas of a digital installation in real time, based on a single database with multiple views: cable synoptic, schematics, equipment management, input/output tables, etc ; including a full SolidWorks 3D Cabinet module. The elecworks 3D Cabinet module for SolidWorks is a unique application which allows the design of Cabinet
within SolidWorks using data in real-time from the scheme project, and will enable most convenient placement and clash detection.
Aladdin Knowledge Systems announced that CAXA CO., LTD., the largest CAD/CAM/PLM provider in China, has selected Aladdin HASP SRM to secure its product design and lifecycle management software. Aladdin HASP SRM, the only fully-integrated software- and hardware-based software protection and licensing solution, provides CAXA a secure solution for protecting, managing and deploying its products. HASP has enabled CAXA to create new business models for its software to reach a wider market and improve customer satisfaction. Using HASP's time-based licenses, potential customers are able to try CAXA's innovative software before purchasing without the risk of piracy or theft. HASP's remote
update feature allows CAXA engineers to update licenses in the field, reducing time and cost.
Jeffrey Rowe is the editor of
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-- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.