3D printing in more than just plastic

CIO | Jul 30, 2015

MakerBot 3D printers will be getting an important update next year that will give them much more flexibility.

MakerBot 3D printers will be getting an important update next year that will give them much more flexibility.

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At the Campus Technology conference in Boston this week, Makerbot showed off its 3D printers and talked about new materials designers will be able to print with next year.

Jordan Brehove
VP, Professional Services, MakerBot
So in 2016 you'll see the release of smart extruders, which will support composite filament. So we'll have a filament that is a PLA composite with bronze, with maple wood, with limestone, with iron. So it is really exciting to see that now it can print in different materials.

Until the new composites are available, plastic is about the only option. This 2 pound spool costs about 50 dollars and is enough plastic to make about 10 of these pyramids.

Makerbots work by precisely layering melted plastic .2 millimeters or 200 microns at a time. The bigger the design, the longer it takes to print. Designs come from online sources, can be original creations or could be 3D scans of an object.

3D printing is used in a variety of verticals and to train designers some universities have invested heavily in the technology. Xavier University in Ohio bought nearly 100,000 dollars worth of 3D printing equipment for its MakerBot innovation center.

Shawn Nason
Chief Innovation Officer, Xavier University
It consists of 31 Makerbot printers. We have 3 of their big Z18s, 25 of the replicator 2s and 3 of their mini Makerbots. We have students that use it. So this year we had a class within our arts and innovation called intro to making that made a prosthetic for a three legged dog.

The university offers 3 classes in 3D printing and designing, but is looking to expand that. They're also going to buy 12-15 additional Makerbots printers.

The lab at Xavier is open to the community of Cincinnati in addition to students. Eventually the university wants to commercialize that lab so that it can make money off of design and printing services and become self sustainable.