PLA-Based Filaments Blended With Composites

Filaments that have wood or metal blended with the plastic, have been available for some time (check this blog’s material category for some examples). At this year’s CES, MakerBot has announced their own version of these filaments. The new PLA-composite filaments types include limestone, maplewood, bronze and iron.

MakerBot’s market share should help expand the availability and use of these composite filaments. Perhaps more significantly, MakerBot has also developed so-called “Smart Extruders” which are tuned to each material type.

The news item at has some nice graphics to illustrate each composite material (cropped from MakerBot’s site):



3D Printer That Uses Standard Office Paper AND Prints In Color

I was catching up on the 3D Printer News from CES 2015 and this product caught my attention: the Mcor IRIS – True 3D Color Printer from Mcor Technologies Ltd. of Ireland.

But you can also use paper, yes, the exact stuff you feed the laser printer, as a material. MCor Technologies essentially pulps standard white office paper, mixes it with a form of wood glue, and then uses it to build 3D objects. MCor boasts it is environmentally friendly – no plastics – and is able to blend in ink into the paper to provide high resolution, nuanced color on all sides of the object being built. An MCor object feels like wood and the detail is astonishing. But the “professional shop” printer lists at $50,000. Fortunately, paper is cheap and can easily be acquired by running to Staples or raiding the (laser) printer.

Mcor Tech claims that the on going cost of operating the paper based printer is one fifth of other 3D printers. Since the color is printed on the object you get a wide range of colors (million +). According to Mcor Tech: “No need to coat color models; even uncoated, the color is rich and vibrant and the models durable”.

They describe their printer as “Office Friendly” because it uses standard office paper and has a low noise level. A lot of people aren’t aware of the toxic fumes that many 3D printers give off. According to Mcor Tech the IRIS has no toxic fumes to vent, messy powders to vacuum or dust and no toxic waste (the materials used are all fully recyclable).

Here are a couple of 3D printed items to give you some idea about the build quality:


Mcor IRIS specs:

Mcor fine arts related image gallery:

Material for 3D Printing “Wearables”

It is hard enough to keep up with advances in 3D printing technology but there are equally amazing innovations being made in the material properties of printing filament. As an artist, the more you can understand about the materials you work with the better. It would be handy to have a database of the properties of different filaments, from various manufacturers, that a non-chemist/engineer could utilize. Anyone know of such a tool?

This news item is reporting on a particularly innovative filament manufacturer named taulman3D. One of their new materials is a nylon material that is very flexible while being very strong and should be a useful material for 3D printing wearable objects.

For those of you, like me, who are clueless when it come to fancy chemical names, this material is basically your typical flexible 3D printing filament on steroids. It is designed to work in virtually any FFF-based 3D printer capable of printing with ABS. Unlike many other flexible filaments that have issues printing on extruders that require 1.75mm filament because they are too flexible in their raw material form, PCTPE will not have this problem. This is because of a special “draw” process that taulman3D required their manufacturers to do. Basically it stretches the material during the final manufacturing process. This is a tactic utilized in the manufacturing of large nylon ropes used for large ships when docking, as it increases the ropes’ tensile strength. It also apparently works with filament, increasing its tensile strength as well. In turn the filament will not buckle or fold as much as will other flexible filaments.

Source w/video:

Using Friction to Correct Blemishes in 3D Prints

I bumped into this little item about using friction welding, to fill in those holes that you sometimes get in your 3D prints.

The premise is based on the fact that plastic has a relatively low melting temperature, a temperature easily obtainable with friction. If you can rub the plastic against an object fast enough, the friction will cause enough heat for that plastic to melt. This melted plastic (3D printer filament in this case) can then be used to fill in holes, gaps, and other blemishes on a 3D printed object.

Welding two plastics together seems fairly straight forward. I think using this process would be a bit tricker to fill small holes, since the object has the same melting point as the material you are filling with.

On the artistic side of things this technique offers the potential to add additional color and designs to complete your printed object. Makes me wonder if something like a wood burning tool, at the correct temperature, couldn’t be used to a similar end.

Source [with video]:

Additive Manufacturing Using Carbon Fiber

Not sure there is much demand to use carbon fiber in the art space. It caught my eye, that MarkForged is releasing a new 3D printer called the Mark One that can print with carbon fiber.

Sounds like they are marketing this printer as a solution that uses carbon fiber 3D printing to replicate existing parts created from different materials. If strength is a factor in the piece you want to produce, carbon fiber might be an interesting alternative to metal.

Source [includes video]:

Sculpting in Cardboard

Any material can be used as a medium for sculpture. So far, diamond and plutonium have seen limited use.

Numerous people have and do work with paper. Not sure what is was about Bartek Eisner’s work that caught my eye but I thought I’d share what I have found.

I really like that he kept the raw cardboard edge in this one:

The tree branch with the raven in it might be my favorite:

Bartek Eisner is a freelancer out of Berlin who does other work in addition to sculpture. One item that got me thinking was a foosball player he created. Makes me wonder if a 3D printed item would be fussed solid enough to stand up to being used on a foosball table?

Source/Mr. Eisner’s web site:

Adoption of 3D Printing

Today’s 3D printing news is dominated by HP’s announcement that when they start producing 3D printers, theirs will be ever so much better (in other words: please don’t buy from our competitors until we have a chance to catch up):

Hewlett-Packard claims to have solved the two biggest problems with today’s 3D printers and will make its first big technology announcement in that area in June, CEO Meg Whitman said Wednesday.

3D printing has a number of issues, especially as they apply to the home/general market. Given the vast research and marketing resource of HP, what do they think are the top two problems with 3D printers:

There’s a lot of “buzz and hype” around 3D printing, but the systems available now have two big challenges, Whitman said at HP’s shareholder meeting. One is that they’re deathly slow. “It’s like watching ice melt,” she said.

The other, according to Whitman, is that the quality isn’t as good as it should be. “The surface of the substrate is not perfect,” she said.

As is always true, the ranking of “problems” is relative to one’s priorities. Since HP is clearly after wider adoption, I think their plan to differentiate themselves is taking the right tack. However, for early adopters I don’t think a lack of speed is a killer issue. Certainly everyone would enjoy a faster output but I think a more reliable, less glitchy printer (i.e. less shrinkage, fewer print errors due to material/printer) would be a higher priority.

I totally agree with HP on the importance of higher quality output. For lower-end printers to be considered “affordable,” they need to be considerably more accurate than what you could get 3D printing with a hot glue gun. I think equally important, for home adoption of 3D printing, would be the improved water resistance and food safety of the materials available for home use.

Speaking of improved materials, another news item I saw was about a new company called MadeSolid; who is focusing on improving 3D printer filament stock. One of their offerings is a material they call PET+. The advantages they claim to offer plastic extrusion printers is impressive:

It’s more flexible than PLA or ABS.
There’s very, very little shrinkage as the material prints. (Amongst other things, shrinkage makes it harder to keep the base of your 3D object from warping off of the build plate — once that happens, your entire print is generally completely wrecked.)
It’s recyclable
It’s heat resistant. You probably don’t want to expose it to flames on the regular (don’t make an oven mitt out of it) — but unlike ABS, it won’t immediately burst into flames, and unlike PLA, it won’t melt in a hot car.
It’s hydrophobic. Some materials (ABS, Nylon) need to be in air-tight containers when stored for long periods of time to avoid absorbing airborne water that’ll cause printer jams; PET+ doesn’t.
It’ll work with or without a heated build plate

Faster printers (more than one print head would be an obvious way to attack problem) and improved materials, should accelerate the adoption rate of 3D printers with the home/hobby market. Printing companies, like HP, love to keep a tight lock on the supplies utilized by their printers. Hopefully material companies, like MadeSolid, will help keep printer manufactures a bit more honest in their filament material offerings and pricing.


(includes video from MadeSolid):

MakeSolid website:

Laywood Filament for 3D Printing

Laywood as a filament made from 40% recycled wood that is combined with polymer binders allowing it to be melted and extruded.

Parts printed with Laywood have about the same properties as parts printed with PLA filament. One interesting feature of this material is the ability to add ‘tree rings,’ or a subtle gradation in color from a rich brown to a very nice beige. The color can be changed on the fly by setting the temperature of your printer’s hot end to 180° C for a light color, and 230° C for a darker color.

Right now this filament is a bit expensive; $20 USD per half kilogram. So, you’re not likely to want to print any 3D furniture with this material.

Source [with video]:

Lower Cost Ceramic Powder

3D printing of ceramics is something I’m interested in learning more about. I picked up one important point from this short item – ceramic powder is very expensive; $30-50 per pound.

The item is reporting on a new power formula, developed at University of Washington, that is much less expensive; under $1/lb.). The link to the actual formula requires registration. I didn’t follow the link since the actual formula is of any value, to me, at this point but might come in handy in the future.

Has any of the blog’s readers done any work with 3D printed ceramics?


3D Printing in Wood?

Just read about a new company, called 4 AXYZ, who has developed a process to 3D print items using wood. The company stresses that their process isn’t technically 3D printing since what they are doing is combining small, uniformly-cut pieces of wood and securing the layers together with a binding material.

The results certainly look very much like 3D printing:

There are a couple of interesting aspects to their manufacturing process:

1) They can embed sensors in the products they produce. If you haven’t been following along, putting sensors everywhere is going to be a huge part of the next wave of innovation.

2) They are able to easily combine different types of material with their wood products:

Without any extra manufacturing cost, a customer could increase or decrease the size of the object they order, or substitute in a different kind of wood. More interestingly, they could combine different types of wood and materials (think carbon fiber or Kevlar) to create composite items that would currently be very difficult to make.

Here’s a picture of a wooden window frame with a core made of cork:

Gigaom says 4 AXYZ are looking for funding to purchase the equipment to get started on manufacturing items using their process. However, the 4 AXYZ web site claims there were going to get started in the Fall of 2013. Sounds like getting the necessary funding is taking longer than they expected (which is hardly unusual).


Drawing Freeform Metal Lines

Dutch designer Joris Laarman has developed a version of 3D printing utilizing welding that also incorporates a robotic arm. The result is that he is able to print metal lines in mid-air without the need for any support structure.

Following on from the machine Laarman developed last year that used a quick-drying resin, this method of printing makes it possible to create 3D objects on any given surface independent of inclination and smoothness. The technique can be used to print with metals including stainless steel, aluminium, bronze or copper.


3D Printing for Artists

TechRepublic posted a nice summary of the key issues keeping 3D printing from being more widely adopted. Just because 3D printing isn’t quite ready for the average consumer doesn’t mean they don’t have a place in the art world. However, many of the same issues that negatively impact consumers are also of concern for artists.

For us stereotypical starving artists the cost of the printers and the material is certainly a key issue.

PLA and ABS plastic are not very sturdy; making them a poor choice for many types of art projects.

There is hope that with the expiring if the patient for selective laser sintering (SLS) printers that their cost will come down. The importance of SLS printers to artists is that they have the ability to print with more durable materials (glass, metal and ceramic).

The lower cost printers don’t replicate CAD designs very accurately.

Like many artistic processes, 3D printers have safety issues to keep in mind: FDM printers can reach very high temperatures; Powder-based printers are messy and potentially explosive and the emissions from SLS printer are a cause for concern.


Good Use For Excess Soapstone

I first saw this item at Lifehacker. I had heard of doing a similar thing, cooling a drink without adding liquid to it, by freezing small fruit.

Being an artist, my mind of course went to – could I do this with more creative shapes. But reading about alaskantomboy‘s experience I realize that may not be a good idea. Since these are used frozen, anything that makes the shape more delicate could easily fracture and put small pieces of stone in a drink; not a good thing.

Warning!: Avoid dropping them! I dropped them a couple of times and you can either escape with a small chip or they will split in half.


New Printers From 3D Systems

Read a review from Gigaom, a couple of things caught my eye:

Most people know that there are 3D printers that can print food (or I’m guessing, at least, food like items). So it’s not so surprising to hear of a printer that can print using sugar. What I hadn’t given any thought to was just how cool sugar cubes could now be; almost makes me willing to add sugar to my coffee just to be able to use them.

Perhaps you are also aware that there are 3D printers that use ceramics as their material source. I haven’t used ceramics as a sculpture medium since school; as I’ve found it difficult to anticipate the shrinkage when sculpting. I will have to do some research on 3D printers that use ceramics to find out how shrinkage impacts the modeling. If you have experience with ceramic printers I’d love to hear from you.


The World’s Most Complex Sand Castle

One idea for a sculpture project that I’m toying with is to design a piece that is meant to be viewed from within, as well as, without.  In other words you would be able to walk through the piece; experiencing a unique environment when in the middle of the sculpture.

The project in this item gives me some inspiration as to how this could be done. Interestingly they viewed their project as a form of architecture. Their focus is on pushing an interesting boundary: “How could an architecture that is entirely designed by algorithms look?” For me a key takeaway is this observation:

One of the most astonishing things, and something we’re still trying to get our head around, is that it costs the exact same amount to 3-D print a plain box as it does to print the most elaborate form conceivable. The costs are the same, and the amount of time required is the same. It is only the outside dimensions that matter, so there is no longer any cost for complexity and no cost for ornament.

You gotta love that the printer they ended up using is meant to fabricate molds and the sand models were not usually thought of as the finished piece.

Another example of a sculpture created with these printers can be seen here….

Click through to the full item for a video of them creating and assembling their sculpture.

Source [includes short video]

Unique Material

I once did a sand casting using aluminum. That was a ton of fun. Still have a vivid memory of the aluminum burning through the top of the steel bucket.

Casting in concrete isn’t new. It is especially common for outdoor/garden pieces. However, transparent concrete is another matter….

I really hope someone is experimenting with transparent concrete as an art medium: