3D Printers

Potatoes are Up, The Meat Will Follow – A New 3D Printing Process is Promised

Joshua Harker’s latest Kickstarter campaign is promising us something new — something different. A completely new 3D printer. Turns out, Josh has been working on it for the last 18 months and is neck deep in R&D but he is in need of a final cash injection to get him over the finish line. As a result, he’s returned to Kickstarter in search of that injection. As an artist, Harker has used KS on a number of previous occasions to fund his artistic projects Crania Anatomica and Anatomica di Revolutis. Very successfully I might add, raising $77,271 and $36,708 respectively.

This current campaign, like the others, is seeking just $500. My thoughts on that are that this is a semi-humble approach, backed by confidence in his abilities and reputation. Justified too, IMO, which seems to be echoed by the backers that have taken him more than 600% past that goal within 24 hours. Although there are no backers at the $700/$750/$1000 levels …. Yet?

So, what is he up to?

Well, it’s a sytematic approach, this is phase one and it is dual purpose as denoted by the campaign title: Mazzo di Fiori & the Next Generation 3D Printer

The Mazzo di Fiori is Harker’s 3D printed filigree floral sculpture, which he is offering, in single and multiple blooms, as rewards for various pledges which are requested to raise funds to complete the R&D of the new 3D printer technology.

Harker notes that “flowers are a universal gift of thank you’” and the Mazzo di Fiori series of 3D printed filigree flowers are his personal way of doing just that for anyone that helps him out here.

As you would expect — they’re rather stunning (& all produced in white nylon using the laser sintering process):

Josh Harker 3D Printing

In terms of the new 3D printing process, which is the meat in this story, Harker reveals how his new invention — which he describes as “a completely new approach & not another FDM/RepRap or DLP project” — is a direct extension of his artistic exploration with 3D printing in “pushing the limits of form…”

To that end he has spent much of the last year and a half developing a new 3D printing technology that addresses “quality, capability, cost, access, & ease of use.”

In terms of where he is up to and what he needs, Harker says:

“So far so good, beta software & prototype hardware results are sound but I’ve already spent more than I can afford on development.  I need your support to complete R&D. As an inventor, I’m here to share my vision but need to reach a more viable version before I can make promises on it.  As an artist, I’m here to support that vision with my work.  I ask for your participation in “PHASE 1” of development to bring something creative & useful to the world.”

As you can gather, there is still some way to go. Harker is not revealing his hand on the new 3D printing platform until all of the IP is protected and the patents are filed. Once those particulars are in order, he will move to Phase 2: which will, he says, bring more insight and another Kickstarter campaign to launch the technology & support manufacture.

He uses the food analogy to launch into the generic specs and features that we can expect from the new 3D printer though, saying:

“So until I can bring the meat, here’s the potatoes…

• Multi-material building to include many standard injection moulding plastics (ABS, PP, PE, PS, PVC, acrylic, nylon), elastomers, wax, graphene & other conductive materials (to support in-model printed circuitry).

• Precision full tonal colour.

• Non-structural & reusable support system allowing for interconnected parts & floating assemblies (chain links, gearing, captured geometries, etc).

• On par with current industry high-resolution standard (X&Y: 600×600 dpi, Z: <15-25 microns/<.001″) @ 12-14mm per hour build speed.

• Potential high-resolution twice that of current industry best (X&Y: 1200×1200 dpi, Z: 5-6 microns/.0002″) @ 12-14mm per hour build speed.

• Hi-Speed option at approx 25mm per hour build (X&Y: 600×600 dpi, Z: <15-25 microns/<.001″)

• Target pricing at less than $1000 for consumer level machine

• Plug & play… no special part orientation, machine setup, or post processing required.

Software: Software tests are golden with seamless integration with the prototype printer. 

Multi-materials delivery & coloration systems are in working order.

Hardware: Current prototype printer works well but significantly limited as to what I can further test on it. Much of the R&D will be focused on building the final stage prototype & preparing the technology for market.

Maintenance: Life cycle of printer components, replacement costs, as well as setting up to make these parts & materials readily available will be addressed.

Legal:  All the obvious patent searches & explorations so this can be brought to market without issue.”

By the end of that list my eyebrows had pretty much receded into my hair line. Particularly considering the proposed retail price is in the region of $1000. There are an awful lot of 3D printing issues being addressed there that no one, including some well-funded global R&D departments, has yet overcome and Joshua Harker is looking to do it in one go, on one platform. The mention of graphene, in particular, caught my eye. As did the “precision full tonal colour” — that might actually mean full colour, it might not. As for the support system, that sounds intriguing.

As ever, fingers crossed — maybe this is the one we’ve all be waiting for ….. and from an unexpected source.