In comparison to last year’s this CES 2017 event review features far fewer 3D printing companies, but attending the show this year revealed how the desktop 3D print industry has matured. We are covering it all today from 3D scanners, software, new 3D printers, service bureaus, and even some new design possibilities. For those of you that did not have the opportunity to attend the show, we have you covered.
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CES 2017 Event Review
Today, we’re going to cover our trip to CES and do a CES 2017 event review, which was by the time this airs, will have been about a week and a half ago. For those who don’t know, that’s the Consumer Electronic Show. Somebody asked me that yesterday. I think we refer to it so much, CES, they’re like, “What does that mean again?” Consumer Electronic Show. The reality is, it’s gone so much farther than consumer electronics. I spent half my day attending digital marketing talks by BuzzFeed, Facebook, our friends at Moxie, Publicis Groupe, and just a bunch of other people who were offering these great seminars and talk and panel discussions. Then of course our main purpose in going for WTFFF?! was to see all of the 3D printing exhibits.
CES 2017 Event Review – Differences from 2016
Before we go into what we saw and talk about what we did there, I want to talk in general about how CES, how we’re seeing it change year over year. It’s not gotten smaller overall in terms of CES but for 3D printing, it definitely got smaller this year. It’s actually gotten smaller the last couple of years running. After we started the podcast, the first time we went for WTFFF?! was January 2015 CES. At that time, there were about 174 companies exhibiting in what they called the 3D print section, which is actually in the Sands Expo that’s a part of the Palazzo and Venetian complex.
There certainly are other companies exhibiting 3D printing equipment. When it’s part of a much bigger company that does a lot more than just 3D printing, then they show usually over in the main convention center in one of the big halls there or even outside of the 3D print section within that Venetian hall that’s there. Like our friends at Honeywell who we’ve had on the show before, they have a much bigger booth that’s slightly over from the 3D print section but they had 3D printing within that booth.
Another example might Polaroid. Polaroid is a company that really doesn’t exist anymore as it did once back in the 20th century. But they’re a brand that still has value and there are a lot of people that license that brand. Under the umbrella of Polaroid is a lot of different kind of consumer electronics and they have a 3D printer as well but that was not in the 3D printer section. It’s really spread out, which means that it’s really hard to get everywhere. We may have missed a few things because we tried to stick mainly to the 3D print footprint and to anywhere else that we knew there was something significant or somebody had contacted us ahead of time to let us know about.
Just to get back to the year over year. 2015, 174 companies in the 3D printing section. Last year, 2016, there was about 105. This year, there was about 50 in 2017. CES is an expensive show to show at, it’s expensive to have a booth there, but it’s always been expensive and the economy is better right now. It’s not indicative of a tightening economy or anything like that. That is more of indicative of a tightening 3D print market. I think it really speaks to some of the consolidation that’s going on in the desktop 3D printing market.
Also, I know several companies that we’ve interviewed and talked to, that thought they were going to show and then didn’t end up showing. Either because their latest printer wasn’t quite ready and they didn’t want to spend the money on the show or reality is they’ve shown in a lot of other shows and CES is really expensive. There’s a number of reasons why companies decide they’re going to show. I know one company that I understand is pretty healthy from talks that we’ve had with them is Polar 3D. They’ve only exhibited that very first year, in 2015, at CES.
CES 2017 Event Review – Speakers and Tech Talks
Some of the mentality of CES in general, is that it’s an innovation show, it should be new. I attended a couple of panel discussions like I talked about and they’re with people talking about the future trends, the tech trends. These are Titans of Tech Trends, was the name of the talk. I wrote an Inc article on that about how they never once mentioned 3D printing as anything innovative or worth talking about around the show. They were talking about everything else but 3D printing.
One of the guys up there said something that caught my ear that just really made it right for me, is he said that, “Look, there’s so much here, there’s about 90% at CES that will never make it, that will never get made, that will never go anywhere.” Some of it might even be some of the stuff that they cover in their magazines. These are much bigger magazines than I write for at Inc, much bigger. Wired Magazine, things like that. They’ll talk about them, they’ll get excited about them but they still won’t make it. It’s when CES gets boring or a section of CES gets boring. To him, that’s a sense that it’s getting commercialized, that something’s actually happening with it. Boring to him means real. That’s an interest perspective.
CES 2017 Event Review – 3D Printing Booths and Displays
From that perspective, I have to say that I thought that the 3D printing section, there were little bright spots but ho-hum, not all that exciting. I would say, maturing in many ways also. I still felt like overall, with the exception of a couple little things … We’re going to talk about DWS specifically, and ZMorph was the one that had the multi-color printer we liked. Besides those two though, the quality of the prints of things still sucked. There wasn’t a lot of really great quality prints themselves. The displays, good examples of prints. There was a couple of exceptions. Those were a couple of them. It should have been everywhere.
I was like, “If you’re going to spend the money to come to CES, you should have the most stellar examples possible.” There really only were really couple of them that I thought, “Wow, these look great. These are amazing.” We used to go and we didn’t see them here this time. We didn’t really spend a whole lot of time with 3D Systems, Stratasys, that kind of stuff. We saw MakerBot and things like that, but even their stuff wasn’t exactly new in terms of a lot of things. Actually, I don’t even think Stratasys showed.
3D Systems, they weren’t like last year where they had this incredibly big showcase of all these different kinds, from examples of things they’re doing in shoes to artistic stuff. They had the most amazing booth last year and definitely did not have that this year. But there were other notable companies that certainly were there and had a lot of great things to see. It changes. I think from year to year, when you have something really innovative and new, you’re going to talk about. Or maybe it’s an example of changing times and certainly companies reduced their marketing budgets. That happens too.
I think that’s probably the case with 3D Systems and Stratasys. It was like, why bother to pay the big money for the big booths and why go into all of that when it’s really not their core focus of the market anymore, Consumer Electronic Show is not a consumer focus for them. It’s a very professional service bureau focus for them. From that perspective, I don’t see them considering it important.
One other thing, before we get into the details of the companies we saw and things that we want to highlight, is that what was being talked about, the entire buzz of CES is really how the Internet of Things is really passé and everybody making their own app to do something when now what they see is the future is the Amazon Echo and Alexa really taking over a lot of functions that used to be done individually on apps.
I don’t think that they said it quite that way. I think that the Tech Titans were talking about that. When they were talking about it, they didn’t say that the Internet of Things is gone, the Internet of Things is extremely important. Now it’s actually realistic and viably. Because think about it this way, we don’t have time to sit there and check a hundred apps for all the different devices in our house.
I don’t want to be checking for my dishwasher, checking another app for my wash machine, checking another app for my thermostat. When I call and say, “Alexa, is the dryer done yet?” Or something like that, and she says, “Yes, Tracy. The dryer’s done.” We’re all good right there. It’s making it viable for the Internet of Things to actually connect and really be useful for people. The Titans of Tech, one of those guys there was really saying that it’s transformed tremendously and that in some ways every company is thanking Amazon for making the Echo and making it a lot easier and more practical when you’re fighting for space for your app in the App Store amongst hundreds of thousands of other apps. That’s tricky.
Here’s the thing, this is the article that I wrote about how you need to be consumer centric in what you’re doing. That’s really where Amazon has it dialed in. They’re so consumer centric. What Alexa is, is a device that just makes it easier for you to be a consumer. It makes it easier for you to save time, save money, save energy, all of those things. All these other devices, they’re doing it but they’re doing it in their own bubble.
That’s really what we’ve been saying all along here on WTFFF?! is really going on with the 3D printing world, is you cannot be in your own bubble thinking that your 3D printer is all that and your software is the only one. You have to look at it as a bigger industry and a bigger market. If you’re not helping to advance that when it’s at this stage in infancy just like the Internet of Things was, then you’re not making it.
Right now, that’s what 3D printing needs. 3D printing needs an Alexa, 3D printing needs a killer app that makes it viable just like the Internet of Things. I think it’s waiting for a killer app to really help transform it and take desktop 3D printing to another level. It’s been waiting a while. Even without that killer app, there was a lot of really cool stuff. There was. You got to talk about baby steps instead of big leaps. Alexa made a big leap for a lot of Internet of Things companies. It’s changing things. We’re never going to look back from what is now happening with Alexa.
Let’s get on to the 3D print exhibits and who we saw and what impressed us, what stood out. I want to make a preface to all this with saying we’re not going to go very deep into a long discussion we had with Braydon Moreno of Robo 3D and their exhibit because tomorrow’s episode is going to be focused entirely on that discussion and Robo 3D. We did see some new things there. We’re impressed with their new products. Much scaled back booth. Just keep that in mind. Braydon was the first one to admit that, but no sacrifice or no consequence in lack of traffic. No, they seemed very busy. Anyway, we’re not going to cover Robo 3D today. It was impressive. We’ll get to that tomorrow.
We’re not going to go deep dive into XYZ either because we have a printer review coming up on one of the XYZ printers. Let’s touch on them quickly but we’re not going to go deep into the printer. We won’t go deep into it. They were showing two new 3D printers. The major departure for these new 3D printers, they’re definitely even more consumer focused. One of them is very safety focused where it’s more enclosed than the other one for kids not to get their hands in while it’s doing its thing.
But really, they’re focused on these new apps, tablet apps especially, to drive these printers, really focusing on the youth market. That was some of their newest things. Also, they were showing a lot of 3D printing pens that they’ve gotten into as well with a lot of different artists doing demonstrations and showing what you could do with 3D pens. We’re also not going to go terribly deep into 3D pens today because we’re going to a whole focus on that coming up as well. We get a lot of new things coming, a lot of new ideas that came out of CES to give you guys lots of focused topics and content.
I just want to say one thing about XYZ’s booth. First off, that was the biggest booth that was there that we walked through. It was very mature in terms of its décor and setup and all of those things. What it reminds me of is when you hit on a stage at which your focus is actually not the 3D print community but the retailers. That was a retailer/buyer focused booth to me. That’s where you want to look completely reliable, established, able to deliver, doing a few cutting edge things, really supporting the sales of your product by showing people how to use it. Because I think that the pens, while I don’t think they do a great job of showing objects in their booth that really demonstrate the great 3D printing of things themselves, but their pen booth was really going after saying, “Hey, we got this craft DIY thing all tapped in.” That was what it was attempting to look like to me. I think they did a good job of it. I really do.
That shifts our focus at the maturity level and the space, the power at which they’re able to go through. A lot of that is they sold a heck of a lot of printers. They certainly are a large company doing many different kinds of 3D printing. They have the infrastructure to really support it. Nobody still is producing the level of content that we would like to see in terms of helping people with what they’re going to actually do with their 3D printers. Except for educational curriculum, they’re all working on that. Still, it’s a very mature company doing a lot of good things. They had some new 3D printers to talk about. But we’re not really taking a deep dive into these printers because we do have some reviews coming up.
Moving on, I want to talk about something big, really big. Titan big. These guys at Titan were at last CES when we met them first. Titan Robotics out of Colorado. Colorado Springs, Colorado actually. They impressed us last time. We had so much fun having them on the show too. It was just such a refreshing way to build a printer. Just to refresh you all’s memory, they make really industrial, large format FFF 3D printers. I’m talking some that are four foot by eight foot beds. Incredibly serious stuff. They had something new and they were also able to announce something that we didn’t even realize that they were doing, and there’s a good reason why.
If you’re a regular listener to the show, you will remember probably mid 2016 at some point, we did a short episode on the Autodesk Project Escher, which we love. It’s the coolest video ever. I just loved the way it looked like, the FFF 3D printer heads were dancing. I remember we talked about that and I compared it to dancing of construction trucks that always go on in here in California where they’re preparing land to build a new neighborhood. Anyway, we did do a short episode on that but we didn’t know Titan Robotics was involved with them at all.
When we arrived at their booth at CES, they had one of their large format 3D printers with four completely different 3D printing heads. Actually I think that it’s capable of five or more actually. They had four they’re operating, printing in coordination and in synchronization with each other. They were able to announce that in fact, they’ve been working with Autodesk all along on this Project Escher and built it and have dealt with learning how to code it. It’s quite something. We took some more video of that going and also took some pictures. We got a sneak peek behind the operations of it, which we’re not allowed to share unfortunately. We couldn’t take any pictures. Looking into that, the system behind that machine was just the most awesome thing.
It really was because when you think about it, if you have four or five heads going, you have to have four or five complete controlling systems operating them and they all have to be communicating with each other so they know where each other is and they don’t interfere with each other. Because you can make one much bigger, larger object across the build platform and much faster with each print head doing a portion of the print. That’s the exciting part of it. This also is in conjunction with the new Netfabb software. I didn’t realize this, but apparently Autodesk bought Netfabb. Netfabb was owned at one point by Microsoft. It was independent before that. Autodesk has Netfabb now. It’s not just what it used to be, which was this software to use to correct errors of your STL file, a repair and all that.
It actually is a driving software to operate your 3D printer, much like a Repetier or somebody’s proprietary software. Netfabb is used to slice these prints apart across all of the print heads that are going to be used. It was quite an amazing thing. We had a great time talking with Clay Guillory again, who’s the owner of Titan Robotics, and some of the things that they’re doing. Not only was I impressed with their equipment, f you or anybody you know is in the market for an industrial serious commercial FFF 3D printer, I think they’re a great company to talk to. You should get in touch with them. Especially if you need a custom build, especially if you need a special size or height or width, anything like that. These guys can really do it and do it fast. They really do know what they’re doing.
What impressed me even more is that here’s a guy who, he has a company, he’s making these commercial printers, they’re, by all account and according to Clay they’re doing well. They’ve increased the number of employees significantly in the last year. They’re really doing it. He has the time and the interest in pushing the edge of the envelope for the 3D printing industry. He is spending all kinds of time and money to work with companies like Autodesk on advanced research projects like this. That was really impressive to me. I’d say, hats off to you, Clay. We were impressed. We’re looking forward to seeing more of what you do in the future.
It just so happened that as we were visiting the booth, their special filament source that they use was there. We’re setting up a future interview with them. The interesting part about that I think is that when you’re talking about such a big machine, such a big volume, you have to produce a gigantic spool. That’s what it is. What did he say, how many kilograms were the spools they were using? 50 kilograms or maybe 100 kilograms. It was big. These things were the size of spools you would expect to see on the back of an AT&T truck that has wire they’re going to be stringing through your neighborhood. This thing was huge. It was I think three millimeter diameter filament too. It was really big.
You need a lot of consistency, ability to do a lot of volume. While that may not fit everyone out there, but if you are industrial 3D printing in any way, shape or form, you’re going to want to know this and you’re going to want to tune in to that episode. We’re going to have them upcoming in the next couple of months on as well. Two great things. We’ll have Clay back on of course to talk about the Project Escher and how it’s going.
CES 2017 Event Review – 3D Scanning Companies
Let’s talk about scanning briefly: Artec3D was there. They make a lot of professional 3D scanning solutions. They have lots of different products that you can go to their website and check out. I’m not really going to go deep into any one of the products right now because what they had there that I want to talk about was a demonstration of a 3D scanner that uses photogrammetry, shooting a lot of pictures. They had a set up where anybody was allowed to walk up, stand on their platform. You had to provide your email address, type in your name. You stood in this platform and it completely revolved around you, 360 degrees, taking pictures. Of course you were told to stand as still as you can and strike a pose, which I did. I really enjoyed doing this. It moved really quickly. This thing took all of 20 seconds or so to scan you.
Within a minute or so, it popped up and you could look at the scan. Then they sent an email. Later that day at CES, I got an email where, on my phone, I could go and pull up the scan and there it was. Running as a looping movie. I stood still and everything rotated around me, but the animation looks like I’m spinning, I’m revolving in a loop. It looks like the model is revolving. There I am, I stuck a pose, my hands on my hips, Peter Pan-ish or something. They like you to be spread out a little bit so that you don’t end up with like weird little spaces. There was one little erroneous area. You could see it, which I think is really important to note. I’m glad it showed there because then it really shows how hard it is to really capture good data and how important it is to have to go back in and really check the data, really make sure you’ve got it right and get it captured right the first time. It saves a whole lot of work later. There were some errors on one of my elbows.
But I have to tell you, from the previous experiences we’ve had with 3D scanning and scanning ourselves, like we did a long time ago, this quality of the scan was better I think, especially when it came to how the scan terminated at my feet or at the bottom of my shoes. There were no errors there with Artec3D. That was a big issue. I decided to strike a pose like Peter Pan because I also thought that if we ended up 3D printing it at some point, I didn’t want to have my hands hanging out there and had to have support material for them. This way, they’re a part of my body and you could just print it straight up with no supports probably. Although I can’t imagine we’d really FFF 3D print it. I probably wouldn’t FFF 3D print it, I would probably use a service bureau to get all the color information in there.
Because those things, if you haven’t watched one of our scanning episodes or listened to one of our scanning episodes and then gone to the blog post or look at the videos and things that go along with them, you’ll notice that usually the color information is captured in a secondary process to the model. It’s like an overlay on top of it. Sometimes the model looks like there’s missing eyes and things like that. Detail is missing because the texture is so important and that texture map comes from the color as well. It just shows you how tricky it is to scan. This is a fast scan.
I’m sure those of you that are doing really professional quality scans, it takes some time. We’ve had other interviews with people that do scanning at that quality level. It’s a long involved process. As an event, right up front in the hall at the 3D printing section of CES, this was a great thing that attracted a lot of people, got a lot of attention and got people to take their product literature and know about them. If you’re thinking of ever showing at CES, this is a good thing to note. Even if you’re not in the scanning business, but having something that engages with the visitors of the show is going to help you be remembered and get a lot of attention. From that perspective, I really liked that.
We are going to cover scanning again in an upcoming episode. We have an interview on the Scan the World Initiative where we talk about that. Artec actually isn’t one of the ones that used by them. The software even because Artec has their own software that they use. Mostly because they’re trying to do it in a very low budget way so it’s a little bit different. That episode is upcoming here within a month or so, that’s going to be a good one.
CES 2017 Event Review – Service Bureaus and New 3D Print Materials
Moving on, there was a service bureau there. We saw our friend Nora Toure from Sculpteo. She’s wearing her 3D print shoes from Feetz. She looked pretty comfortable in them too because it was a long day to be standing on your feet, I walked around and my feet were killing me by the time I saw her. They had some really cool things, new materials in their booth that they were really excited about, the metals were just amazing. That’s really what they were highlighting, that’s what they were there to talk about, is what’s new there at Sculpteo is 3D print metal capabilities, high quality metal capabilities.
What they were showing in their booth highlighting that was a bicycle that was built with 3D printing. Also, most of all the joints were 3D printed. They still used some tubes between them, the jointed parts. If you could think of the major triangular particular of a frame of a bicycle, they definitely were using tubes to bridge or cross those long distances. All the joints were really impressive metal 3D printed parts. It was a great display and a great example. I think that a lot of engineers really have a love for bicycles or certainly usually a great interest in them. This was a great show piece to help highlight that.
It was a lot of fun. I also really like the flex seat that they had, the look of it. I don’t know quite how hard it was for the poor girl who had to ride it all day. It did look like it was an interesting shape. I think the idea that you could make your own bike, build different seats overtime and really test them out and then have them built in the right materials or have a silicon mold made, other things like that, I think that’s really interesting. Sculpteo does a tremendous job of really offering a lot of different materials and a lot of service. That was very impressive.
We’ve covered some other 3D print bike projects in the past. I think bicycles are a great example if you have the interest or even if you’re a company who’s manufacturing bicycles or just maybe a hobbyist. I think there’s so many wonderful things you could do with 3D printing a bike in terms of function and form in creating a different structure to achieve what your goals are. I think it’s a great project. It’s fun to see them doing it as a demo.
I have to say, I was really impressed by the metal finishes. There was a really nice rose gold finish, which is very popular. It was a great stainless material. They’ve got some really good materials going on the metal side and I think that makes their service bureau even more viable than it was before. These are good options for them to be bringing in.
I want to make a quick mention here of MakerBot’s booth. I’m not going to go too deep into it because we have been testing and reviewing their latest MakerBot Replicator+ printer for a couple of months. We have a review of that coming out very soon. We’re behind on that, I am a little behind. We’ve got a backup of reviews. There’s several reviews that are coming. MakerBot, XYZ among others. It is worth noting because they were there with a much bigger presence than they’ve had last year for sure. Maybe not the prior year when they had all the Martha Stewart stuff they were showing. That was bigger but this was a big, for this particular show of all the other exhibitors, it was a big exhibit.
They were obviously their new printer, the Replicator Plus. What I really want to highlight today and talk about is their tough PLA which is a new material. It’s got the properties of ABS and is environmentally like PLA. You can do it in your office environment without any concern for the fumes.
The funny part about it is that I had to step away and go to one of these talks. When I came back, Tom was like, “You got to come see this tough PLA. Come on, come look at it.” Seriously, they’ve got this rectangular black booth. He takes me over to one corner and hands me this little tiny gray box. You could’ve seriously missed it in their booth. It wasn’t like a big enough statement about it. You were really excited about the box because it had such a great living hinge on it. That was one of the features.
Living hinges, for any of engineers out there who understand plastics know the living hinges are high tolerance things that are molded. Usually out of a material like polypropylene, I think that’s the most common, polyethylene sometimes. This tough PLA, they demonstrated with a few different products why you might want to use tough PLA. The living hinge to me was the best example where you can FFF 3D print any kind of object with enough precision to actually have a truly functional living hinge. I was very impressed with that.
MakerBot is sending us some tough PLA that we’re going to experiment with. You have to use a different Smart Extruder. It’s a Tough Smart Extruder or a Tough PLA Smart Extruder. We’re going to have that and be testing that as well. That’s going to come after the main Replicator Plus review, it’ll be its own review, like a material review. Anyway, that was worth mentioning, pleased to see that and impressed. You’re going to want to keep your eyes out for that new review of the Replicator Plus because there are a lot of significant improvements in that printer to talk about. That’s coming up here before too long.
Next, I want to talk about one of the most impressive 3D printers that I saw at CES. There’s a company called FLUX Delta. They have a Delta 3D printer that is not just printing plastic through an extruder. What they’ve done is they’ve made their 3D printer with interchangeable parts. The head of this printer is attached with just some simple … You have your delta 3D printer with your three columns and then obviously you have the motors that are going up and down, climbing those poles. They connect to a assembly, a head in the middle with the three points. They’ve got these, it’s actually six points. There are two connectors to each motor assembly on each pole. They’re connected with magnetism, with neodymium magnets. You can easily change out this head so quickly. The magnet and the way that they’ve engineered this, it’s so precise that it doesn’t take any adjustment to deal with that after the fact.
What they have is one machine that does five different things. It does 3D scanning, it does 3D printing with filament. It does laser engraving. You can interchange that head for a laser engraver. They had lots of examples of laser engraving of wood and metal and different things. They have the ability to put another head on it that does actually cutting of vinyl material. You can lay down and do instead of, like the CriCut machines or the Sizzix Eclips, these are machines people can buy for the desktop that cut paper or vinyl for craft projects. They have the ability to do that. They also have a head that interchanges with a pen where you can draw, like an old plotter. If you really had to do a lot of drawing in this way, you may not want to use such a small platform on a Delta 3D printer, but it has the capability to do it.
Really, they’ve made one machine that has a lot of versatility. If you were a maker and you wanted to do a lot of those different functions, not all at once obviously, but at times do different things, you can buy one machine that can really do it all. I think it was 899. I thought it was cool. Don’t get me wrong. I thought it was cool. But I really question whether or not this company’s going to be able to stick around.
First off, they got the Kickstarter kiss of death going on because they were a top 100 Kickstarter. I think also, who’s going to buy this? It’s so complicated, not in how it functions, drop the heads in, all of that. It seems like too much, you’re overbuying on one hand, or it’s so niche like you have to be an educator with a maker space so that you can just buy one machine instead of five machines. How many of those are in and across the country? How many more are going to be popping up over the years? Is it a growing industry or is it a saturated industry?
These are the questions that come to my mind from a business model standpoint that I’m concerned about. They have this mentality, they haven’t built, like we referred to the Sizzix and the CriCut and those kinds of things. They’re dialed in with their content community. They provide tremendous amount of content, content sharing and everything like that. They don’t have anything like that. What they have is a digital crafting developer platform. If you’re creating stuff for a digital content, you can participate in their developer program. We all know, there’s no money in that for us designers. Why are we going to waste our time learning the developer code for their machines?
That’s my question, it’s like, where’s the support for it? The machines that do well have a community, have a eco system. They don’t have that yet. I don’t think 1.6 million on Kickstarter was going to get them very far with getting one. That’s barely going to get their machine. That’s my big question, is like, are they really going to be around? That’s a valid question, but the machine is still cool. It was very cool. It’s engineeringly cool.
Here’s the thing. We’ve talked about how we believe there’s been market saturation in the desktop 3D printing community, especially in the maker community and enthusiasts. We’ve talked about how if you’re going to bring out a machine into that community, you’re going to have a really tough time. Because there’s already a lot of machines out there. If you’re going to attack a market like that, you better have something unique and different. I agree with the context concern, but this machine is really something different. I think it may appeal to the maker and enthusiast community because it does some different things.
But you have to look how many companies have already abandoned that as a model of business. It’s an aside to their business. They’re all focusing on, “Let’s go after education. Let’s go after prosumers.” Forget the makers because they can build their own machines and they’ll be fine. We don’t know what they make. Here, you’ve tried to make a machine that does whatever they might want to make. While that’s great, that price is really high for that maker community. You’d have to be a pretty serious maker or a maker space. That’s where I sit back and I question the
business model with that machine. That’s what I’m saying. I just question the connection between the two. Let’s not spend a whole lot of time on that. Either perspective may be right. We’ll see.
If that thing actually was doing laser cutting, like some of the other machine that we saw, not just laser engraving … Because when I saw the laser, I was like, “Is it cutting also?” They said, “No, it takes a more powerful laser and this is only laser engraving.” Which actually makes sense because it’s an open Delta. It would be a little dangerous prospect. If they could figure out a way to do that, then they would have had a heck of a jack knife and a lot of people would have bought it. For the laser cutting, I’m talking about the Full Spectrum Laser Muse.
This actually was in appearance for a machine, it really is very similar in appearance to what you’ve seen for the Glow Forge that’s been announced and out there for a long time, which is a desktop laser cutting machine. The Full Spectrum Muse is as well. It is a $5,000 all in machine. It’s really impressive. Can cut just about anything. Does a great job. It’s even got built in ventilation and all that. It’s really a professional machine. It’s an expensive machine but for a laser cutter, that’s very cheap. This is within reach of maker spaces, even hobbyists who have enough money and interest in it. I was salivating over it. I thought it was super cool. I was thinking of all sorts of things we could do with that. We’re not getting a laser cutter. We’ll talk about that later. Anyway, Full Spectrum Laser, the Muse, it was really impressive.
CES 2017 Event Review – Making a Splash with COLOR
Other than that, let’s see. Let’s wrap up with the different companies we saw that were addressing color. Let’s go with the one that we were most impressed with, which was the ZMorph. Oh my gosh, I can’t wait to get our hands on one of those machines. We were able to meet with the head of the company and they are going to send us one to review. Awesome people. Here’s what I really was impressed with about it, was they’re not showing color like, “Let’s just make an ombre or let’s just make a traffic cone.”
They’re really showing practical applications of why you would want to use multi-color. They’ve actually shown examples of what was in my head for ways that we would use a multi-color printer. They were showing architectural models where you could really see the clear window sections behind the rest of the structures. It was just very simple two color but beautifully modern and elegant. It really took the model to the next stage that it needed to so you can really visualize what it was like instead of making it look like a completely solid thing or like the ones that you get from the white cloud service bureau and other places, which they were there as well by the way at CES, where you get them and they’re the powder printers. They have this pastel quality to the color of the model that they print for the architecture.
Here, you have the ability to really give it the accent and, from a designer standpoint, really make your models or your presentations to clients, really make them demonstrate the impact that they need to have all in one piece so you don’t have to do a lot of labor. Also, they have their Voxelizer software that really is an incredibly effective tool at taking a graphic image, a 2D graphic image, and printing that in plastic and filament on a surface of a 3D printed part. It’s really incredible. When you’re changing colors, they’re feeding into one nozzle, these different colors. There’s no wipe towers or anything like that, or purge towers, which have been very messy.
It was a beautiful machine. The design of the machine was incredibly impressive. The design of the machine was beautiful to begin with. I think it’s a couple thousand dollars. I don’t want to tell the guy because I certainly … That might be our next printer. That’s the one thing that I saw when I looked at it, I thought, “This could be viable for our next printer.”Of course, we’ve got to review it – and we might just keep that model. There’s some others to review. That’s the one that I saw that I thought, “Wow, that seemed like a lot cheaper than I expected for the quality of what it does.”
It’s a very quality built machine. It’s got incredible industrial design. Just the machine itself looks cool, modern, like it’s doing something special, and it is doing something special. Because it’s also a multi head machine. You can change out the head. They had one they were demonstrating, doing little CNC cutting work. That’s why I was thinking when we mentioned laser cutting, I was thinking, “Gosh, didn’t the ZMorph do that?” I don’t think it did laser cutting. It was like a CNC router. That’s what it was doing, but that’s what was in my head.
They’ve built a machine that can be expanded in the future when they have other heads for other purposes. But really, just in terms of 3D printing, both from a hardware and a software perspective, the most impressive that we’ve seen in terms of practical application and execution of a vision of something in more than one color, whether that’s actually prints that have distinct colors in different areas or it’s blending of materials or using them to create just patterns, 2D color patterns on the surface of an object. When I mentioned that I thought there was like really boring and not great content out there, the samples on display, their booth was not that. This was the exception. Although a lot of the samples, they were almost like hidden gems. You had to stand inside the booth and get around the crowd to even see the cool stuff that they had all along the back wall. It was impressive.
We can contrast a little bit with the Something3D Chameleon. We talked about this in a recent episode, talking about color in with patents, especially lately. Something3D Chameleon is a 3D printer that has the capability of feeding five different filaments, five or six actually, into one nozzle for printing multi-color. They’re mixing it and had these different objects on display that they had printed with it. When we saw them in person, really the things that we had mentioned in that past episode of them being very muddy and not very impressive … They’re doing CMYKW.
The thing about it, is that it just hurts the viability of a color machine for me. While there was nothing wrong with their particular machine, what it really showed was the same problem that we’ve seen so often in these printers, is that they just don’t have a sophistication in terms of the software to really handle it properly. This one was doing what I referred to as tapestry printing on our episode about the CMYKW or in the patent. That means that it’s constantly throwing the colors it doesn’t need behind it. That’s why it gets what we just referred to as the muddy look.
Really, you’ve got a lot of yellows, browns, ambers to black and everything in between. Because these colors that are being mixed are not really mixing or blending. They’re not playing well with each other. It really is indicative of what we’ve talked about. This is a very hard thing to do. It’s a combination of software problems and CMYKW not being the right color options to make it work either. You have a filament problem. There was a stark contrast.
They were back to back. Actually, these two booths were back to back, ZMorph’s and Something3D Chameleon were back to back. It’s an impressive looking machine. It certainly works. It prints just fine, but really, to me, just was not there. It was a good example of a mature company doing something of very quality and maybe a company that has great aspirations but is having a little trouble achieving their vision. With all your objects that you have lined up on the table, you can see that it looks like psychedelic 1970s tie dye. That’s what every single one has that look to it, like a faded tie dye the-shirt with an image on top of it. It just doesn’t have the quality that we expect.
Now, let’s talk about another company. This is a very popular company in the world of 3D printing, especially among the RepRap community. That’s Prusa Research. They were there showing their Prusa i3, which we talked to them about getting one in for a review. They’re happy to do that at some point in 2017, although they don’t seem to be in a big rush to do it. They’ve got a bit of a backlog in manufacture. It may take some time. They’ve got a very reliable and certainly very popular machine. It definitely looks like more of a kit type of machine. Of course you can get it as a kit or you can buy it fully assembled.
What I want to mention is they have a multi material upgrade for this machine. They’ve really worked very hard apparently. I was reading quite a bit about it and talking with them at the show, about how they have, through a lot of trial and error, figured out what’s very hard about multi material 3D printing and fused filament fabrication. They have come up with their own method of achieving it that apparently is quite successful. If you look on their website, you can see examples. You can really do multi material 3D printing with their machine. The results were quite impressive. I can’t speak from user experience yet, but I look forward to doing that. It was the winner of Make Magazine’s 2017 3D Printer Shootout. It’s been at the top of 3D Helps’ list for quite some time as one of the most popular printers. I think that says something about reliability or it wouldn’t make either one of those.
Although, I think we really need to dive in in a future as to Make Magazine’s point system and how that works. Let’s decipher that in a future episode. I actually don’t really like their system personally, but it’s certainly worth taking a deeper dive in to understand it better. Let’s see. Just a couple quick hits to talk about. Certainly, the My MiniToy is a printer that seems to be a little bit more mature. We saw it last year. They were supposed to send us one for review. The president of the company even, I got an email where he told his assistant to send it to us. This is now six months ago and it still never arrived. I don’t know what’s happening there. We haven’t reviewed it, don’t have personal experience, but it’s getting at that youth market and it looked impressive, again.
Our friend Buzz Baldwin over at 3D Printlife was there. We’re going to have Buzz back on the show because he’s got some new things coming up with 3D printing support. We’re not talking about support built on the machine but like service support. I want to get him on the show coming up soon to talk about that. We’re going to talk about that. We’re actually going to go and register on their site and try out what they have to offer before we dive deep into it with you so we can speak from experience on that. That will be fun.
Certainly, they were showing at CES, as they have every year that we’ve been there. They’ve been a perennial there and have really quite a good line of filaments that are incredibly popular in the education market especially, from lower schools all the way up into universities. We’ll talk more about that. I love of course the spool of their material. Their spool is one of our favorites and their color palette’s great. I have to say they’ve done a really good job with that. Their spool is completely disassemblable and recyclable. That’s why I like it.
One quick mention, we’re not going to take a deep dive, but this company called Lix, the Lix pen. They’ve got a very cool looking 3D pen. Some of the techniques that they used to create objects with a 3D pen I thought were very practical and very innovative. Drawing with these pens over sketches on paper and then separating it from the paper and using those as building blocks, it was a cool demonstration.
We’ve seen a lot of these pens where they have these dumb little, I don’t know, laminated hearts, little bunny heads and things like that. You’re supposed to draw it flat and then pick it up and then start to make it three dimension from there. I don’t know. I find a fundamental flaw in that thinking of how you want to build something in it, but the way that they utilized it was so much smarter. Very practical. Both designers and engineers will all like it. Anybody who’s interested on 3D printing and considering a pen, you should check that out. We’ll take a deeper dive another time.
This is getting on to be one of our longer episodes because there’s just so much to talk about. Like we said, we’re going to take deeper dives into some of these companies. Robo 3D tomorrow, which was also impressive in many ways with their new printer. Stay tuned tomorrow for that.
I’ve mentioned at the very beginning of this podcast about the DWS products that were on display. These were highlights of really great designs done by great designers. The machine that they’re done on is so much a professional service bureau level of a machine. It makes sense, the quality level of what came out of it. They’re really highlighting great designs. There was lampshades and there was a robot that was just totally adorable. There was just a bunch of different things, sunglasses that I would wear. There was a lot of really cool things. I think they really pushed envelop. Unfortunately, their booth was like this hidden labyrinth that you had to walk through. I think they just didn’t get it out there enough. Unfortunately, I’m not sure they had a lot of traffic. I think that’s a shame because I think that was some of the best design work I’ve seen in a while. That’s what it was, was a gallery. They were highlighting the materials and the processes but as part of a story about what these objects and designs were. That was impressive.
Anyway, hope you all have enjoyed this CES 2017 event review. If we missed you there, you guys got to remember, if you’re in the industry, you’ve got to remember to send us an invite to your booth, you’ve got to remember the send us a message. A lot of the companies who’ve been on the show already do that, but if you’re new and upcoming and you’re listening to this podcast, you’ve got to reach out to us to let us know. We just can’t be everywhere, especially if you’re not showing in the main area. I think those companies suffer a little bit from getting regular traffic of people interested in 3D printing. If you’re doing the whole show, if you’re spending multiple days there, maybe you can come across it all. But that’s a tough experience, it’s a huge show. I can’t do multiple days there.
One more person I want to give a shout out to, because we bumped in to her, Leisa Rich, she’s a wonderful artist that we’ve highlighted in the past year. We’re going to have her on the show again because she’s been doing so much work, she’s done a great gallery opening in Atlanta, she’s going to come on the show and talk about that. We saw her and John Rich of Moxie whom we had done a previous podcast with him as well. She was there along with him. We definitely got to get her back on the show.
We didn’t really talk to her on the show. We highlighted her work. We’re going to get her on the show to talk about how she approaches it. Because one of the interesting things she mentioned to us is how difficult it is when the coating part or the design part isn’t your forte, the art part is. Being progressive and being able to creatively express takes a lot of time and energy. I think that’s a good topic. I like how she talks about the tough part of the intersection of the tech for doing it and then the art, the artistic nature of it. I really enjoyed seeing her in person. We look forward to that interview as well.
Anyway, thank you all for checking out our CES 2017 event review. Be sure to go to our Pinterest board as well, which we all have a CES Pinterest board. Be sure to check out our Pinterest board as well, if that’s the way you prefer to look at images, all the images from this post will also be on our Pinterest board. Of course, you can always find us on Facebook @3DStartPoint.
If any of you were there and you saw something else, you want to comment and share it with us, please do. We’d love to hear about that. You can always comment at the bottom of the blog post, or share your pins from CES to our board.
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