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.
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.
Some universities have invested heavily in 3D printing. Xavier University in Ohio bought nearly 100,000 dollars worth of 3D printing equipment for its MakerBot innovation center.
It consists of 31 Makerbot printers: three big Z18s, 25 Replicator 2s and three of their mini Makerbots – and they've even been used to make prosthetic for a three legged dog.
The university offers three 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 commercialise that lab so that it can make money off of design and printing services and become self-sustainable.