Thursday, August 30, 2012

Noisebridge Hackerspace

I've been MIA for a bit, but I'm back now. I was on a mini-vacation all over California, on my journey I got a chance to see first hand some 3D printers at Noisebridge, a hackerspace in  San Francisco. Below are some pictures from my visit. Noisebridge is a non-profit that is geared toward providing a space to advance open source education. Besides having a 3D printing corner there is also a woodshop, a craft corner, a library, and a computing and robotics center. They are doing a great job advancing their cause. They offer classes in 3D printing (among other things) and if I were there I would definitely take some. Now that I am back in San Diego I may even see if there is anything like that around here. After a cursory google search nothing too promising, but I will not give up hope.

Makerbot printers

RepRap printer

Sunday, August 19, 2012

"Escher for Real" 3D illusions

Check out this project by Gershon Elber from the Technion in Israel. He uses 3D printers to recreate some of Escher's great illusions in three dimensions.
The original Escher painting

On the left is the angle that creates the illusion while the right shows how strange the object really looks
This video shows even more examples and how it is made:

Saturday, August 18, 2012

3DFinance: Organovo (ONVO) wants to print you a new organ

So as part to the blog I am interested not only in the technical side of 3D printing, but also the financial side and so I will be writing at least a post a week (every Saturday) that has to do with how 3D printing stocks are performing and my (unprofessional) assessment of their potential.

This week I am highlighting Organovo Holdings, Inc. (ONVO) a development stage company that is developing the technology to print organs using a culture of a patients own cells. This blog has actually already touched on a little of Organovo's work, the company that is working on 3D printed meat, Modern Meadow's co-founder Gabor Forgacs was also a co-founder of Organovo and a lot of the tech is the same. They only recently started trading (back in February) on the over the counter market and aren't even on the larger exchanges. This means that they aren't exactly established, and rightly so, currently they do not have much of a revenue stream as they are still working on the technology.

Any investment in this stock would almost certainly be pure speculation, as it is very early, but also with potentially great payoffs. Currently trading around the $2 mark the stock seems to be recovering after the rollercoaster that was its opening. The stock skyrocketed from $2 when it was first issued to $10 over a couple of months as the press-hype and buzz got people excited about the project, the stock then plummeted after people began to realize that they will not be able to print themselves new livers tomorrow (talk about a bad hang-over) but will have to wait upwards of 10 years for it to be more wide-spread. Some of the drop was also attributed to the fact that those preferential investors that bought stocks for cheap on private placements were finally able to sell off those stock and flooded the market. With expectations of the time-line for production starting to settle in the price is again starting to creep up again. I feel that the height that was reached before the crash reflects some of the potential for what the market would value this technology at if it was fully functional and so if Organovo is successful I would not be surprised if it returns to that level.

There are sure to be large fluctuations in this stock over the years, but as they accumulate more patents and develop their technology I would say it is not a bad investment purely for the intellectual property. I can see a Pfizer (or some other medical powerhouse) buying them out in a couple years with potential good payoff for Organovo's investors if all is going well.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned above. I am not a finance professional and before you blow away your savings on my advice consult real financial professionals

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Nom Nom: 3D Printed Meat

It was recently announced that Peter Thiel, one of PayPal's co-founders, has awarded money to a fledgling company that is trying to change how we think about meat. Thiel is giving money to Modern Meadow through one of his philanthropic organizations, Breakout Labs. The idea is that through 3D printing we can create meat from synthetic proteins that will not require all of the negative externalities of raising livestock.

Here is a technical description from their report to the USDA:

"So far, bio-printing has been applied to build three-dimensional tissues and organ structures of specific architecture and functionality for purposes of regenerative medicine. Here we propose to adapt this technology to building meat products for consumption. The technology has several advantages in comparison to earlier attempts to engineer meat in vitro. The bio-ink particles can be reproducibly prepared with mixtures of cells of different types....We anticipate that this Phase I application will result in macroscopic (~2cm x 1cm x 0.5mm) edible prototypes and will demonstrate that bio-printing-based in vitro meat production is feasible, economically viable and environmentally practical."

There are many issues that will arise before we start getting steak shaped into Mickey Mouse ears, but whether we consider it ethical or not I feel that this advancement is inevitable. It may not take off in America, but much like the Green Revolution changed agriculture, this technology will allow for the ability to increase the amount of meat in the developing world. Countries like China will need to develop ways of producing the meat necessary to feed their ever growing population and this may be just the answer. The fact that the population in the developing world is growing faster than the rest of the world is one thing, but on top of that a World Health Organization report found that more developed countries consume more meat so this problem could be exaggerated even more.

This project has a long way to go, but there will be many issues that come with synthetic meat. I have some questions for my readers.

Would you eat 3D printed meat? (Spoiler: I would, but I would require it be printed into fun shapes)

If you are vegan, would you eat meat that was printed?

If you only eat kosher meat, how would you kasher 3D printed meat?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Inception Printer?!?!

Hey guys, you can print a 3D printer with a 3D printer!

Yusuf is right, there is such a thing as a 3D printer that prints another 3D printer. It is part of the open-source project called RepRap. The project, started in 2007, already has thousands of users, but as with many open-source projects it is mainly used by hobbyists making it the Apple I of 3D printers. This project has been good for getting the small-scale 3D printer movement going, but it is not for the faint of heart because the coding is very technical. 

Prusa Mendel, one of RepRap's basic models
Mendel model "parent" with two of its "children"

Since the founding of RepRap there have been many companies that have been founded, or decided to start a project, to develop more consumer friendly 3D printers, but because it is free RepRap still reigns as one of the most used.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Your Home Your Way

3D printing will bring with it the ultimate in customization combined with the precision and ease of manufacturing. One of the best examples of this is the ability to custom build your own home in less than 24 hours. This concept, brought to you by Contour Crafting, will allow for your entire house, wiring and plumbing included, to be built by a giant 3D printer that can be transferred to and from a construction site. Because of this building procedure many of the previous restrictions of current construction will disintegrate and everything from curved walls to odd shaped windows will be possible. I personally cannot wait to see the rows of houses no longer just slight modifications of each other, but each an entirely unique personal creation. Issues may include cost, job displacement, short-term feasibility, but with the rest of the world moving from man-made to machine-made, will our homes be next?

Check out Contour Crafting CEO Behrokh Khoshnevis at TEDxOjai talk about what his company has to offer:

Monday, August 13, 2012

Welcome to 3D Printonomics!

QUICK UPDATE: 3dprintonomics was an exciting endeavor, but due to bandwidth constraints the blog has been suspended. There will be occasional updates on twitter @3Dprintonomics and maybe one day blogging will be restarted.


Welcome! This blog has been created to track the progress and development of 3D printing technology (a.k.a. additive manufacturing) as it begins to enter into the realm of the consumer market. I will be discussing topics ranging from stock performance to the impact it will have on the price of goods and from advances that are common place to those on the edge of science fiction. Join me as I chronicle developments that will without a doubt affect the future, the only question is how much. My goal is to inform the world about the potential that this technology has, look forward to videos, pictures, articles, and my own personal analysis.

My name is Ayal Chen-Zion, I am a PhD student in Economics at UCSD. Some may call me a crazy futurist, but I think that as technology marches forward 3D printing will soon be on the front line of innovation.

For those that are new to 3D printing here is a TED talk that highlights just some of the amazing potential of 3D printing:

David F. Flanders @ TEDxHamburg 2011

Comments are welcome.