Monthly Archives: July 2012

Brian Proffitt and Tim Worstall on Open Source 3D Printing

3D printing (can we all agree on whether or not to hyphenate and/or capitalize the “d”) is a hot topic for speculation in certain circles. Lets look at some now…

Read the original article by Brian Proffitt over at ReadWriteWeb.com or just the highlights here.

The potential of 3D printing to transform the way we get things – the market is predicted to hit $3.1 billion in the next four years - gets a lot of press. But not much of that attention has focused on the unique role of open source hardware in enabling 3D printing to realize its promise.

Open source hardware is a component or device that has been licensed to allow anyone to examine, duplicate and modify the hardware as they wish…Open source hardware doesn’t get much attention outside of geek circles, but it is starting to have a real-world impact.

Arduino’s hardware is completely open sourced (under Creative Commons), with design files and specs available, as well as control software (under the GPL) and documentation (also under Creative Commons). The only thing non-free about Arduino is the trademarked name – and that’s just to keep standards in place.

Making it easier, faster and cheaper to produce physical objects could fundamentally shift the manufacturing paradigm. As 3D printing, powered by Arduino and other open source technologies, becomes more prevalent, economies of scale become much less of a problem.

One little blue-and-white microcontroller may not be the fulcrum to move the world, but open source hardware is definitely making the lever longer and easier to push.

Read the original article by Tim Worstall over at Forbes. Or not. Here are some excerpts for your brain.

Is 3-D printing going to change our world in the decades to come? Sure it is, it’s going to, in fact it already is, entirely change the economics of low volume manufacturing. That, in turn, changes the economics of high volume manufacturing and so we’ll end up with an entirely different product mix, what gets made where and how.

… it’s easy enough to see a time in which one has such a [3D] printer just as much as one has a paper printer. Need something, call up the part design over the web, pay a buck or two perhaps (and no doubt there will be open sourcers as well) and print out whatever it is that you wanted.

However, I’m continually seeing the old Luddite point beng made. If we don’t need factories full of workers to do things then won’t everyone be poor as they’ve got no jobs?…I continually pound my head onto the desk when I see this argument.

If we’re getting as many physical goods from our 3-D printers as we desire then there’s no shortage of non-physical goods, services if you like, that that same displaced labour can now go and provide…But the second, and clinching, argument is about cost. We will obviously only use our 3-D printers to create everything if they are cheaper than the more traditional manufacturing methods…let us go to the extreme and assume that they are cheaper: so much so that manufacturing really does disappear. What does that do to wages? Yup, a fall in the costs of things is equal to, is by definition the equivalent of, a rise in real wages. So if 3-D printers do take off it can only be because, by definition, they make us all richer.

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RepRap 3D Printer Color Mixing Nozzle by James Corbett

If you’ve done any desktop 3D printing and, lets be honest, who hasn’t, right, then you’re aware of the limitation imposed on your creativity by the color of the plastic you’re printing in. Makerbot has sort of addressed the issue with their dual extruder, but it’s really only a tease. Being able to switch from one color of plastic to another only highlights the fact that you can’t print in any of the colors in between.

At first people tried to solve the problem by coloring white ABS filament with markers just before it entered the extruder. This approach worked. For example, the Filament Colorizer by cyclone holds two sharpies and makes your prints new colors. Dry erase markers also work, as demonstrated by scocioba. Also RyGuy. As an alternative, James Corbett has developed an extruder that mechanically mixes different colors of plastic. The idea is that you could have a roll of plastic in basic colors (like CMYK and black) that you just push into the mixing chamber in different proportions to create the full color wheel.

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Testing the marker thing was pretty straight forward. People just rubbed a marker on the plastic filament and it did pretty much what you’d expect. Testing the mechanical mixer was an entirely different story. Corbett went through several passive and active designs before he found one that successfully mixed the plastic. Follow the jump to read the conclusion and way ahead from his paper on the subject.

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White Rabbit Solution – Open Source Distributed Timing Standard

Open source hardware isn’t just a cute little idea that some scruffy hobbyists and smarmy entrepreneurs are pushing for their own reasons. Real live scientist-types are using it to solve important problems.

For example…

Imagine you have a something happening in one place and you want to measure how long the effects take to get to another place 10km away (light, sound, the Higgs boson, whatever). Well, it turns out you are going to have a pretty tough time figuring out exactly how long it took for the effect to travel from one place to another. Timing is kind of a really really important issue and getting it right requires specifically designed systems.

White Rabbit is what CERN came up with to measure things at exactly the same time even when they’re really far apart. It is being used mainly for physics projects, but they carefully designed the system to be generic and open so that it could be used for pretty much anything.

The WR project “provides deterministic data and timing (sub-ns accuracy and ps jitter) to around 1,000 stations [and] automatically compensates for fiber lengths in the order of 10km.” It is also, “completely open.”

Additional Links

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Kanyi Maqubela Interviewed Jessica Jackley of Kiva About Crowd Funding

Kanyi Maqubela of Collaborative Fund interviewed Kiva co-founder Jessica Jackley for The Atlantic (how’s that for maximum name-dropping in minimum space).

Read the article, or continue reading for some highlights.

Maqubela: It seems there will soon be platforms to raise money for almost anything, from the local bakery you hope to start in your neighborhood, to your high-technology startup idea, to donations for a church mission trip. What will such an economy look like? To answer that question, I spoke with with my colleague Jessica Jackley…

Jackley: Not all things can or should be crowdfunded…The ventures that keep things light and fun, easy to understand, that have a compelling story, a sexy retail product, will have an easier time getting people to rally around them and contribute. A start-up doing something that’s difficult to communicate or doesn’t offer any kind of retail product will have a tougher go at it.

Maqubela: This seems to line up with your Kiva philosophy: crowdfunding as a way of validating, or manifesting, an emotional connection to an individual or a narrative.

Jackley: Investors in big and in small deals tend to invest in people and in stories that resonate with them.

Maqubela: Kickstarter provided more than $150 million in funding to the arts in 2012, outpacing the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), but is that a lot of money?

Jackley: One of the smartest things Kickstarter has done, in my opinion, is give people a great shopping experience related to the arts, that funds the arts. In essence, they’ve gotten people to pay $200 for a t-shirt plus the feeling of participation in another artist’s endeavor…Healthcare professionals don’t make art (in any traditional sense).

Maqubela: Endowing important projects requires sustained interest over time, and the Internet trends heavily towards short term thinking. I’m skeptical that crowdfunding could sustain longer-term projects…

Jackley: I wonder about that too.

Maqubela: But is the wisdom of the crowds really good?

Jackley: I see no problem with opening up more ways for entrepreneurs get capital — in general I think the more the merrier on this front — but again, we need to respect the place of crowdfunding in a very big market, and not try to make it more than it should be.

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Arduino Leonardo

The new board from Arduino, the Leonardo, is pretty much an Uno except that it doesn’t have a dedicated chip for USB communication. The serial port runs in the same chip that runs your sketches (the ATmega32U4). This means that if you reset the board you also reset the USB connection. However, because the serial port is virtual it means that the board can run as a (HID) keyboard or mouse.

Arduino Leonardo

Freetronics LeoStick

The simpler physical wiring means that the Leonardo is cheaper ($20), but it also means that there’s less flash memory and some of the pins have changed, so Uno shields might not work with the Leonardo.

If the Uno footprint is just too big there’s the LeoStick from freetronics ($30).

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Flexibity Open Source Wireless Internet-Connected Sensors

Flexibity is the brain-child of Maxim Osipov. It’s a standard for open source sensors, each of which connects to a standard wireless router and has its own IPv6 address. With the combined hardware and software standards anyone can create an application or a sensor. Since the system connects to the internet you can use the information anywhere.

The idea was good enough to win the Oxford Entrepreneurs - TATA Idea Idol 2011 competition.

If you want to check out the source files, here ya go.

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Interview With Marco Perry of PENSA About The DIWire

Marco Perry is co-founder of PENSA, a New York consultancy that designs and improves products. It wouldn’t be too far off to say that innovation is his business. A short while ago Pensa designed, demonstrated and then open sourced an automatic wire forming printer. In case you aren’t familiar with it, here’s an overview:

The DIWire has attracted a lot of attention and Pensa is even planning on unveiling an improved version at the 2012 Maker Faire. Openalia sat down with Mr. Perry for a quick discussion of the DIWire specifically, and open source hardware in general.

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3D Printable Lathe

Thingiverse user Sublime has made this nifty mini-lathe that is mostly plastic parts printable on your average friendly neighborhood 3D printer.

Related Links:

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