Star Wars Fans Create BB8 Models Using 3D Printers

This article is shared from You can read the full article here.

BB8 Builder’s Club, is growing organization of 1800+ that is focused on building home-brewed BB8’s. As of “October the BB-8th”, they are now officially recognized by LucasFilm Ltd. Moreover, they have publicly released the STL files for 3D printing the parts. You can learn more, and even join, the BB8 Builder’s Club here.


Also, completely independent of the BB8 Builder’s Club, “part-time makergeek” Jean-René Bédard has developed his own BB8, as well. His droid is 3D-printed, remote-controlled,  managed by Arduino circuits and stands on its own two wheels. You can read the full story here, at

This article features Ultimaker 3D printers, which are available for purchase from

5 Ways 3D Printing Will Benefit Us All

3D printed ring case for iPhone 67.

3D printed ring case for iPhone 6.

Things I Like About 3D Printing Culture

When I first started exploring 3D printing, I learned quickly that the key word describing this technology is “disruptive.” It’s an interesting word, and for someone who likes the comfort of familiarity and stability, it struck an odd chord with me.

Here’s what I think about when I hear “disruption”:

  1. To throw into confusion or disorder.
  2. To interrupt or impede the progress of.
  3. To break apart or alter so as to prevent normal or expected functioning. (From The Free Dictionary)

I don’t like confusion and disorder. I get frustrated when people or events interfere with my progress toward a goal, and I get really, really frustrated when things don’t work as I expect they should.

If one picture frame in a room is tipped ¼”, my eye rushes to the picture, and I can’t rest until I set things “right.” I like to do the same things each morning when I get up, and that includes making my coffee the way I always have and putting it into a cup that works the way it has always worked. In fact, I still have a cup I liked and bought for myself forty-five years ago!

That, I guess, is why I’m not an inventor or a maker. I think inventing and making requires someone with a very special personality, someone who delights in surprises, who takes interruptions and detours as a spur to new questions, who doesn’t get frustrated but instead gets curious, who takes odd or unexpected functioning as opportunities to learn.

So I get that there’s a mindset associated with 3D printing technology that I can admire even though I don’t really share it. I am fascinated and inspired by the innovation I see everywhere, and I’m excited by the ways I expect I will benefit from this inventiveness despite myself.

Here are some other things I like about the 3D printing culture: sharing and collaboration, expressed in the open-source movement and via the internet. I’ve worked in a number of different environments and “industries,” and in all of them, the norm is to protect one’s own interests. Creating a new program or seeking donors? Keep your information to yourself — these are “trade secrets.” Academic discoveries? Mum’s the word. Did you create a new dish that people particularly like? Don’t share it!

This culture of secrecy is understandable but alien to me. It even seems counter-productive in some ways. I may not invent “things,” but I do invent good recipes from time to time. I know that my recipes are built on a foundation of those who came before me, and that’s even more the case now in these days of Pinterest. I also know that no one will make my recipe exactly like me. They may even make it better and share that improvement with me. And most of all, I doubt that anyone who eats in my cafe is going to think, oh, I have that recipe, I think I’ll go home and make it myself instead of eating here.

So I appreciate this 3D printing culture that highlights the benefits of open sharing. Erik de Bruijn of Ultimaker BV says, “It’s important to share what we know, not expecting something back but feeling confident that something will come back. The beauty of community is that we might get something back that we didn’t expect! Or something for which we didn’t even ask!”

Of course there are limits to open sharing. Inventors who choose should be able to protect their inventions. Often they invest resources in the hope of a return on their investment, which can’t happen if someone else goes to market with their idea. The hope of rewards can stimulate innovation and creativity. Still, an environment of sharing is a welcome counter-balance to the environment of heightened secrecy and security awareness that prevails these days.

Ways We Can All Benefit from the 3D Printing Revolution…Maybe Be Part of It

So here are some ways I believe I will benefit from 3D printing even though I am not myself an inventor. I believe we will all benefit:

  1. As people invent and disrupt and explore and discover, many new tools, materials, procedures and “things” will result. One of these inventions or discoveries may be just the one we need to extend our life or the quality of our life. We’re on the verge of creating operating human organs from cells.
  2. Innovations in 3D printing might make familiar but imperfect things and procedures work better. Dental implants are one of those items that occurs to me.
  3. Vastly expanded opportunities for collaboration provided by the internet and idea-sharing on an open source platform will stimulate a different kind of cultural environment, at least in the world of 3D printing. But these kinds of things never stay put. This style of thinking and creating will become part of our general culture.
  4. In Makers: The New Industrial Revolution, Chris Anderson wonders, “Can Makers make jobs?” pointing out that as output doubled over the past four decades, manufacturing employment fell by about 30 percent over the same period. For Anderson, the answer to that question is a resounding “yes,” as the Maker movement democratizes manufacturing. We will all benefit from this boost to the economy.
  5. With this new “industrial revolution,” we are poised for an age of discovery. Indeed, we see examples of these discoveries tumbling in every day. People are excited and energized to tinker. It’s great to be alive in an era of creativity and inventiveness in human history. It will infect and stimulate us all. Even me. I can let that picture hang crookedly for awhile until I figure out what caused it to tip.

Here’s a story about how 3D printing can change us all, even those of us who aren’t big on being “disrupted” and don’t consider ourselves inventors.

Last week I picked up a post from about a “3D Printed Ring Case for iPhone 6” that “gives users a better grip.” The phone case included a large ring on one side that would fit a belt clip.

I used to operate a cafe, and my hands were always buried in some kind of food. Anytime my phone rang or beeped, I had to pull my hands out of whatever I was working on, rinse and dry them, and begin a hunt for my phone. Once I found it, I had to unlock it and find the button to answer. By the time I got the message, it was usually too late. I really would have preferred not to stop at all and just let the phone signal away, but what if it was something really important? And I couldn’t tell if it was or wasn’t until I went through that procedure.

Many times I thought, I wish someone would invent a phone case I could wear as a pendant on a necklace or on my belt in a way easy to remove. I’d like to know who’s on that phone before I go through this whole procedure!

So yesterday I came across that article. Here was my idea, sleek and beautiful and very effective! So you know what? Maybe I’ve been acculturated already! Maybe I, too, am an inventor . . . I just don’t yet have the skills to move myself from idea to actual thing-in-my-hands.

But I can get there, especially as things become easier, which they surely will. Remember MS-DOS?

Boomers, Now Hear This: 3D Printing Is Arriving in Dentistry!

The Objet260 Dental Selection 3D Printer from Stratasys prints amazingly realistic dental models with multiple materials.

The Objet260 Dental Selection 3D Printer from Stratasys prints amazingly realistic dental models with multiple materials.

Rock concerts and sugar really did a number on the Boomers, and it seems as though Medicare anticipated our issues. What are the two things most of us need about now that Medicare doesn’t cover? You’ve got it! Hearing aids and dental implants, both costly items.

Hope is on the horizon, though, thanks to 3D printing, which has been part of both the hearing aid industry and the dental industry for a long time, and advances are happening every day in both areas. This post focuses on the most recent advances of 3d printing in the dental industry.

As tempted as I am to contemplate the future when we will be able to grow our teeth in a lab, without the need for porcelain or composite fixtures, I’ll focus on a few recent reports, things that are happening right now, or are about to happen, in dental offices.

In an in-depth report on 3D printing in dentistry from SmartTechPublishing, “3D Printing in Dentistry 2015: A Ten Year Opportunity Forecast and Analysis” we learn that 3D printing is moving more rapidly than many other industry segments toward digital production technologies. 3D printed dental components require “high value parts, with high performance standards, at high volumes.” Other industries are attempting to “bring 3D printing into this scenario for maximum value and competitive advantage, but dentistry is already achieving it.” Significant players reviewed in the report include 3D Systems, Argen, BEGO, Concept Laser, DWS, EnvisionTEC, EOS, Prodways, Solidscape, Stratasys, and others.

According to the report, both polymer and metallic applications are already in use in dentistry for:

  • surgical guides and models
  • casting and tools to aid in traditional techniques, and
  • actual dental restorative components

We’ll look at one illustration of each of these three applications, first surgical guides and models. As Stratasys says3D printers do the hard work and eliminate the bottleneck of manual modeling in dentistry. In the dental industry, modeling is probably the most basic current usage. Combined with oral scanning and CAD/CAM design, 3D printing allows dental labs to move quickly into production phase of stone models.

Stratasys alone offers four printers for dental modeling and component creation, and the most basic model, Objet30 Orthodesk, allows dental labs and offices to create surgical guides as well as models.

Casting and tools. Avi Cohen of Stratasys says that 3D printing has advanced dental techniques from “analogous, manual manipulation of materials to a systematic, digitally verifiable process.” 3D imaging software and 3D printed dental casts allow dental practitioners to engage in a verifiable process, creating products that are more consistent and reliable.

The foundation of 3D printing use in dentistry, though, is digital dentistry, “the use of dental devices and technologies that have computer-controlled or digital components. While traditional dentistry relies on devices like electric drills, stone molds and braces to restore dental structure and health, digital dentistry relies on innovative technologies such as lasers, X-Rays and oral scanners.”

Short of actually making teeth, 3D printers have been important tools in dental offices and labs for years, increasing the efficiency of traditional practices. These printers may “feature lights of lasers that polymerize a liquid or fuse a powder with the computer-guided precision required to produce small objects with intricate details.”

Dental restorative components. If you’ve ever had a crown or an implant, you know that one of the most difficult parts of the process is the wait between preparing your tooth (or space) for a crown or implant and actually getting it. It can take weeks, and in the meantime, you either have an empty space, making you feel like you never want to go out again, or a temporary (bulky and awkward) cover for your tooth.

A limited number of dental offices already make crowns while you wait with technology that has been available for about 30 years. The current process is:

  1. Take a picture with a digital camera  or 3D scanner,
  2. send the digital image through CAD/CAM software,
  3. tweak the result with the aid of the software, and
  4. send it to an in-house milling machine that makes the final crown or implant.

The milling machine uses a block of composite and sculpts the crown or implant out of it. It’s exciting for anyone who has suffered through the wait of the traditional method. The milling method is called CEREC (Chairside Economical Restoration of Esthetic Ceramics).

Only 10% of dentists use a CAD/CAM milling machine, however, even though the technology has been available for such a long time. The learning curve can be steep, and most dentists still prefer to leave the work to skilled technicians in dental labs.

The day is almost here, though, when 3D printers will not only assist in making models, they will actually print your tooth.   The advantage of 3D printing over milling is that it can better manufacture a tooth with all its intricate, individual details. The disadvantage of 3D printing in dentistry has been that it takes more time than milling.

Now, though, researchers are racing to come up with faster 3D printing methods in dentistry. Joseph DeSimone, the CEO of the 3D printing company Carbon3D and a professor of chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, announced at the TED Conference in Vancouver in March, 2015, that a breakthrough technology allows teeth to be printed in 6.5 minutes.

So Boomers: if Medicare won’t cover your tooth replacement, watch for that 6.5 minute tooth to come to a dental office near you.  Take half an hour to get that tooth replacement, and go out to your next night on the town looking like an eighteen year old! But hold on the sugar anyway until they’re further along on 3D printed heart replacements. 🙂

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Makers: The New Industrial Revolution by Chris Anderson

An Unofficial Book Review


An Unofficial Book Review: Makers: The New Industrial Revolution by Chris Anderson

I am very fortunate to come to 3D printing as a “newbie” and have the opportunity to explore the possibilities of this rapidly growing industry — in the words of Avi Reichental of 3D Systems, “exponentially growing.”

Not first and foremost a technology person, I am still able to grasp the concepts of 3D printing and what makes it such an exciting phenomenon. Ideas like empowerment, democratization, customization, open-source sharing and the potential of the amazing creativity of the DIY movement in combination with open-source technology. I am excited by the possibilities, more and more of them realized each and every day.

In Makers: The New Industrial Revolution, Chris Anderson, author of the best-selling, The Long Tail, and editor in chief of Wired, explains the sources of this excitement and adds to it as he discusses the potential for 3D printing to jump-start U.S. manufacturing, where employment as a percentage of total working population is at a century-long low.

Anderson presents this vision of the future through two starting images, one from personal experience and one from a more abstract realm, that of science. His personal experience was of his grandfather, a lifelong tinkerer, who developed and patented an early automatic sprinkler system, something much-needed in the California of his time with its hot sun and residents’ insistence on green lawns.

In following the story of his grandfather as Anderson compares that experience to the experience of today’s tinkerers, “Makers,” we begin to understand how profoundly significant the difference is. As Anderson says of today, “any kid with an idea and a laptop can create the seeds of a world-changing company.” Much of the book is devoted to looking at the dimensions of that difference, primarily centered around giving tinkerers a computer and a connection to the Internet.

The other image that tells the story is the scientific one, the transition from bits to atoms. This image describes how we will take what we have discovered in the last ten years about creating, inventing and working together on the Web (bits) and reapply that knowledge to the real world (atoms). Physical objects begin as computer designs, and the designers share the designs online as files. A movement that began in factories and industrial design shops is moving into homes and garages and basements.

Touring this changing landscape with Anderson, I gained some surprising new perspectives. In talking about what revolutions can do, he described the movement from farmland into factories in the city and talked about the improvement in health that industrialization provided despite romantic claims to the contrary. Brick buildings in the cities protected people from damp and disease, and mass-produced cheap cotton clothing and good-quality soap allowed “even the poorest” to have clean clothing and better hygiene. Increased income allowed a better, more varied diet and improved access to healthcare, schools and other shared resources (pp. 36-37).

The productivity enhancements of the First and Second Industrial Revolutions drove worldwide economic growth. They changed everything “from longevity and quality of life to where people live and how many there are of them” (p. 38).

Many view the Information Age as the Third Industrial Revolution. Anderson argues that it was not an industrial revolution until it had a “democratizing and amplifying effect on manufacturing,” similar to the first two revolutions. He says the “Third Industrial Revolution is best seen as the combination of digital manufacturing and personal manufacturing: the industrialization of the Maker Movement.” The digital transformation not only makes existing manufacturing more efficient, it extends manufacturing to a hugely expanded population (p. 41).

The tools of 3D printing, the printers and the laser cutters, are ways to turn bits into atoms. And the process works in reverse too! “Reality capture” starts with an object, scans it and turns it into an image that can be manipulated and modified onscreen.

Piece by piece, Anderson examines the components that have created the specific characteristics of this Third Industrial Revolution: open hardware, building “communities” on open organization models, reinventing the old big factories and the maker movement.

He wonders, “Can Makers make jobs?” pointing out that as output doubled over the past four decades, manufacturing employment fell by about 30 percent over the same period (p. 153). I have watched that happen and experienced repeated calls for “retraining” in the manufacturing world, as jobs went away, never to return.

Anderson also points out that outsourced jobs are becoming more expensive as wages rise dramatically in countries to which we outsource, making them less of a threat.

He observes that the Maker Movement in essence finances itself by sharing designs, letting consumers manipulate and customize them, then pay for the output. In addition, crowd-funding advances the movement, giving it the lateral growth it requires to be a revolution.

Resulting Maker businesses represent the ultimate combination of atoms and bits — all described through the lense of stories about real people and their experiences.

The book is readable, explanatory, even exciting. It puts this newest revolution into the context of history, cultural history and manufacturing history. Its Appendix, “The 21st-Century Workshop,” invites us all, democratically, to join the revolution by providing brief introductions to its main tools.

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UK firm, Dovetailed, creates 3D printed fresh fruits through spherification.

UK firm, Dovetailed, creates 3D printed fresh fruits through spherification.

What can 3D printed food manufacturing learn from McDonald’s?

In a galaxy far, far away from 3D printing

In 1954, Ray Kroc joined the McDonald’s team in California. He was responsible for enlarging the franchise operation. By 1956, there were 14 stores, and sales reached 50 million hamburgers.

By 1958, when I first visited a McDonald’s, sales had reached 100 million. That fact was advertised on a little billboard under the arch — “McDonald’s Hamburgers: over 100 million sold.” By 1960, that billboard read, “over 400 million sold.” 6 years. Exponential growth.

This amazing success was built on a short list of requirements that every franchise met. Kroc’s list, QSC&V (Quality, Service, Cleanliness and Value) meshed perfectly with the McDonald’s brothers mass production food techniques and assembly line customer order processing. It was a combination that met the needs of the market at that time.

Can 3D printed food meet the needs of today’s market?

The world has changed in 55 years and with it, what consumers want. A recent report shows that Sales of packaged and processed foods are declining, and customers want more fresh fruits, vegetables and meats.  More and more, people are turning away from processed foods, from industrial “food products.” As supermarkets and fast food operations lose market share (McDonald’s is closing stores for the first time in its history), they are scrambling to respond to this changing market.

Can 3D printed food meet the requirements of this very different market? Let’s think about what those requirements are likely to be.

  • An increasing number of Americans are health conscious. This is likely to mean organic food, food that retains its natural fiber, no food additives and no added sweeteners.
  • More and more Americans want food that is produced and distributed sustainably, and they want to know that those who work along the food supply chain are treated fairly.

3D printed food: healthy, sustainable and affordable?

Natural Machines makes Foodini, "A new generation kitchen appliance that combines technology, food, art and design." From the early 3D printed food visuals, I'd say vegan has it!

Natural Machines makes Foodini, “A new generation kitchen appliance that combines technology, food, art and design.” From the early 3D printed food visuals, I’d say vegan has it!

So I wonder: can 3D printed food become a significant part of today’s food economy?

To answer that question, I devised a checklist. Ray Kroc’s QSC&V (Quality, Service, Cleanliness, Value) checklist was short, and following that example, so is mine. I think it corresponds to the kinds of things an increasing number of us want in our food. Here’s my checklist:

  • Healthy
  • Easy
  • Real
  • Delicious
  • Sustainable

HERDS. Can 3D printed food fill those specs? Can we produce 3D printed food to satisfy today’s market to the extent that it will become a real market force?

I admit, I’m skeptical. For the most part, what I have seen in 3D printed food is ingenious and often attractive, but the best items are highly processed, sugar-laden (confections), and along the lines of fast foods (pizzas). They fail on at least three of five points in my HERDS checklist: healthy, real and sustainable.

3D Printed Food Serves Special Needs

I do see, though, that 3D printed food can serve some important specialized needs, most effective among them so far, food for seniors with dysphagia (difficulty swallowing):

3D printed soft food delivers appetizing nutrition to seniors

3D printed soft food delivers appetizing nutrition to seniors

Softfoods, from TNO, a Dutch non-profit, 3D printed food that is easier for seniors to eat. Typically seniors have to eat unappetizing purees. In Germany, seniors with dysphagia living in nursing homes are likely to receive a beautiful plate of 3D printed soft food.

More making health easier for some, Dovetailed 3D Fruit PrinterThe beautiful custom-designed 3D printed fresh fruits pictured at the top of this page could certainly be a vehicle for important vitamins and minerals that people find it difficult to get from food for a variety of reasons. I think, in particular, of seniors and very young children.

Dovetailed developed a spherification printer that uses fruit juice combined with a gel to create droplets of custom fruit flavors encased in a very thin “skin.” The droplets form into specific programmed shapes.

At the very least, these 3D printed fruits, made of real fruit juice, are healthier snack items than most commercial snacks promoted for children.

Edible Growth by Chloe Rutzerveld

Edible Growth by Chloe Rutzerveld

Healthy, very fresh, real food anywhere, anytime. Dutch food designer Chloé Rutzerveld created cracker-like yeast structures containing seeds and spores that sprout over time. These natural, transportable products certainly make healthy snacks or traveling food at the very least. Nutritionally it’s got to  be superior to airline trays!

While the designer sees it as the future of food in the long run, it’s easy to think of significant ways to use these fresh, natural products in the short run. Certainly it would be easier to print foods like these and distribute them in disaster areas as an alternative to bulky and expensive-to-ship traditional foods.

Use plentiful but unpalatable ingredients. We are familiar with this kind of processing. Isn’t it the basis of cooking? If we looked at many of the foods we eat in their raw form (livers, tongues, flesh), we might not eat them.  Various processes, including cooking, make them not only palatable but delicious to many.  Any mom knows how to sneak healthy items into their kids’ favorite foods, and many are learning that green smoothies are a delicious way to serve up greens to people who might otherwise not eat them.

Similarly, various scientists and technicians are looking at ways to use items that are plentiful but unappetizing so don’t get used, although they might provide excellent nutrition. 3D printing can turn these items into the base ingredient for familiar dishes.

These ideas and innovations, all satisfying our HERDS requirements, tell me that while 3D printing may never replace real food and traditional food preparation at a time when we are hungry for it, it has the potential for a major role in the big food picture as we move toward the future.

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