8 Awesome 3D Printing Trends to Watch

3D PrintingThe words “3D printing” may bring up a wide range of images, from DIY-looking boxes churning out lumpy plastic figurines to miracle machines printing new organs to extend patients’ lives. Rarely do people picture the middle ground: smaller, prettier printers for around the house, or real-life objects made a little better or cooler thanks to the technology.

But those changes are coming. This year sees the emergence of tiny 3D printers smaller than the proverbial breadbox, silent and stink-free 3D printers and — especially handy — printers with 24/7tech support. These home printers, and far fancier ones in factories, are turning out toys, tools and clothes that weren’t possible before, including scale models of users themselves made from 3D scans.

Mini Printers for Mini Prices

While phones are getting bigger, 3D printers are often getting smaller — much smaller. M3D’s Micro looks like a toy replica of the real thing, but it can print objects nearly as big as itself, up to about 4.5 x 4.5 x 4.5 inches. That matches the output of many larger printers.

Simplicity is the secret. The Micro uses PLA (polylactic acid) plastic, which melts at a lower temperature than others and doesn’t require a heated print bed to stick to. After shipping models to Kickstarter backers, M3D will start selling the Micro to the public in the summer for $349. The Micro is one of the smallest printers, but it’s not the only one. Makers of traditional big machines, such as Robo and Lulzbot, are releasing models with “mini” in the name, including the excellent Lulzbot Mini.

Whisper-Quiet Printers

The trend isn’t always toward small. 3D printer-maker Up, known for its Up Mini line of petite printers, has gone in the other direction with the new Up Box. Close to the size of a mini fridge, it can make objects with dimensions of up to 8 x 10 x 8 inches. Despite its size, the Up Box is meant to keep a low profile by being extremely quiet — I heard little more than a hum standing next to it — and odor-free thanks to an enclosed design and a HEPA air filter.

The Up Box goes on sale shortly for $1,899, which includes one year of free parts replacement and 24/7 tech support to deal with annoyances that inevitably arise. “Customer service is going to be the name of the game,” said Brian Quan of Up’s parent company Tiertime.

Cooler, Custom-Made Toys

Many 3D-printed toys are just shabbier, more-expensive versions of what you could get at Toys “R” Us or online. Mark Trageser of 3D-printed toy company InsaniTOY is using the technology to churn out original concepts based on any whacky idea that comes to mind — almost instantly. For example, he had an idea for a lamp in the shape of a spider, with the light bulb mounted in the critter’s body. “That spider, between concept to being on sale on Amazon — seven hours,” said Trageser.

He also pointed to the ability to experiment with materials, such as a toy car printed in semi-flexible nylon on an SLS (selective laser sintering) printer. It came out fully assembled with the wheels on and the axel mounted to functioning shock absorbers. 3D printing and online selling allow Trageser to produce niche, made-to-order products without worrying about getting shelf space for them at a retail store, and his toys stay on sale indefinitely. “I don’t have to take my products off the shelf,” he said.

Full-Body 3D Scans

People aren’t cloning themselves yet, but they can make extremely accurate replicas that rival Madame Tussauds’ handiwork. And you don’t have to go to a special facility to do it. Artec, which makes 3D scanners, recently started selling a full-body scanner called Shapify — a rotating drum of cameras and lights the size of a small bedroom — to locations including malls and supermarkets.

“Anyplace where people are ready to spend money on cute things,” said Artec’s director of sales Julia Bulakh. The device captures a full scan in about 12 seconds, allowing people to hold some creative poses, like freezing midstride. The 3D models are cleaned up automatically and sent off to a printer if the customer decides to order a mini-me keepsake. Want your own scanner? It costs $99,000, with 3,000 scans included.

The Rise of Resin Printing

Traditional FDM (fused deposition modeling) 3D printers are typically limited to a plastic layer resolution of 0.1 millimeters. That may sound very fine, but the resulting ridges are often easy to see and feel. Instead of squeezing out plastic, resin printers use light to turn a photosensitive liquid into a solid, one layer at a time, and with layers at least five times smaller than with FDM, at 0.02 mm. That’s fine enough to make tiny figurines (that can then be painted) or molds for casting intricate jewelry.

Resin printing isn’t new, but it’s becoming more affordable. Formlabs Form +1 printer, which excelled in our review, sells for $3,299. A company called SprintRay is launching a Kickstarter project for its MoonRay resin printer, priced at $2,499. That’s in line with higher-end FDM printers, like the $2,899 MakerBot Replicator. SprintRay aims to cut costs, in part, by using fewer parts. It’s also different because it uses a projector with an ultraviolet LED instead of lasers, as the Form +1 does. See it in action in the stunning video below.

Superstrong Carbon-Fiber Prints

Carbon fiber is a dream material due to its combination of strength and lightness. But it’s a nightmare for 3D printing, as it won’t stick to itself. MarkForged has found a fix by layering carbon-fiber filaments with Kevlar in a traditional FDM printing process. The company’s Mark One printer makes objects strong enough to use in place of metal, for example in specialized tools that would cost a fortune to produce in limited quantities with traditional forged manufacturing. The Mark One starts at $5,500, but it’s not intended for your desktop. The company is targeting clients like aerospace firms and the military.

Metallic, Rubbery and Other Exotic Materials

Carbon fiber isn’t the only new 3D printing material, and many of the others don’t require a special printer — just a typical FDM model that can handle high temperatures. Among the new substances are nylon, metal-infused filaments and a rubbery substance called NinjaFlex. Objects, or even parts of objects, made from NinjaFlex can have more or less give depending on how you print the object. For example, it can be very stiff if printed as a solid object versus more flexible with an internal honeycomb structure. Aside from making fun rubbery toys or tchotchkes, NinjaFlex has the potential to be used in practical objects like shoes.

3D Clothing You Could Actually Wear

Printed fashion is still an experimental area, often used more to simply show what can be done. But clothes you could almost imagine wearing are starting to appear. Design firm N Topology recently showed a one-piece dress printed in an intricate, multilayer weave of TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) — a stretchy material that hugged the model’s body but flexed to let her move easily.

Going up a notch, designer Melinda Looi and printing company Materialise created an Oscar-party-worthy dress made from thousands of interlocking white pieces of polyamide, a slightly flexible material with a grainy finish. No assembly was required: The dress came out of the SLS printer in final form, folded in thirds. It cost “thousands of Euros” to make the dress, said a representative ofMaterilise, and that was before affixing thousands of Swarovski crystals.

Most buyers of 3D-printd fashion will wear simpler, but also more useful products, such as sneakers with well-tuned levels of strength or flex. “The first consumer-facing [3D-printed] products will most likely come from sports-apparel makers,” said Greg Schroy of N Topology.

The Most Expensive Apple Products Ever Made

Apple Watch EditionBeyoncé has one. Katy Perry has one. Even the emotional Drake has one. I’m talking, of course, about the Apple Watch “Edition” model.

A lot has been made of the Apple Watch Edition’s hefty price tag, from $10,000 to $17,000. It is the most expensive mobile product Apple has ever made, by far. But Apple has experience selling high-end electronics. Very high end. Here are the most expensive products Apple has ever sold.

Apple Watch Edition

Let’s kick things off with the product that’s got everyone talking, the Apple Watch. Most Apple Watch buyers will likely opt for the 38 mm Apple Watch Sport or 42 mm Apple Watch Sport, which cost $350 and $400, respectively.

But if you’re a celebrity, tech mogul, or just really rich, you’ll probably snag an Apple Watch Edition. Pricing starts at a cool 10 grand for a 38 mm Apple Watch Edition with an 18-karat rose-gold case with a white Sport Band. Or you can splurge on the top configuration: $17,000 for a 38 mm watch with an 18-karat gold case and red Modern Buckle strap. You can’t get a 42 mm watch with the Modern Buckle.

Supercelebrities like Beyoncé, though, have been spotted wearing an Apple Watch Edition with a gold link band. Apple doesn’t advertise this configuration of the watch anywhere in its promotional materials, and you can’t buy it through the company’s website. The going theory is that the all-gold watch is a special version of the Apple Watch Edition made specifically for super-high-profile celebrities. Pricing starts in your dreams.

20th-Anniversary Macintosh

Built to commemorate Apple’s 20th anniversary in 1996, though released in 1997, the 20th Anniversary Macintosh was a special edition all-in-one desktop. The TAM, as it’s known in nerdier circles, sold for a wallet-eviscerating $7,499. That’s the equivalent of about $11,000 in today’s dollars.

The TAM lived a short life, though, as its performance didn’t match its price. You could have bought a similarly powerful Apple desktop for far less cash. The TAM did, however, get to spend some time in the limelight, serving as Jerry Seinfeld’s desktop computer on Seinfeld. A version of the TAM also made an appearance as Alfred’s computer in the cinematic abomination that was Batman and Robin.

Mac Pro

Let’s jump from the past back to the present with Apple’s current Mac Pro. The cylindrical desktop is a heavy hitter in terms of both performance and price tag. Used for things like hardcore video and photo editing, the Mac Pro starts at $3,000 with a Quad-Core processor, 12 GB of RAM, 256 GB of memory, and dual graphics cards. That’s quite a beastly machine.

But if you want to go all-out, you can stack the Mac Pro with a 12-Core processor, 64 GB of RAM, 1 TB of flash storage, and dual graphics cards for $9,600. If you buy every accessory, display, cable, and printer that Apple recommends for the Mac Pro, you’ll end up shelling out an incredible $22,000.

Of course, that price includes two displays, a variety of cables you’re unlikely ever to use, software, and Apple’s AppleCare Protection Plan, should you drop your Apple Watch on your Mac Pro and scratch it.

Apple Lisa

The Mac Pro with all the bells and whistles may cost $22,000, but it’s still not the most expensive computer Apple has ever sold. That honor goes to Apple’s Lisa. The business-centric desktop originally went on sale in 1983 for roughly $10,000, or $24,000 in 2015 dollars.

The Lisa wasn’t just some overpriced box. It was the first computer sold to the public with a mouse-based, graphical operating system, something we still use today. It was a pioneering system, to be sure, but at $10,000, it’s hard to believe that anyone bought it.

Apple LaserWriter

Released in 1985, Apple’s LaserWriter was a networked laser printer that, according to Macworld, could be used by up to 40 different Macs using Apple’s AppleTalk network. The LaserWriter led Apple to dominate the desktop publishing market by providing people with the ability to produce physical copies of the graphics and layouts they designed on their Macs.

The LaserWriter wasn’t cheap, though. With a starting price of $7,000 in 1985, the LaserWriter would cost a staggering $15,400 in 2015. That’s one pricey printer.

For now, it’s probably safe to say that Apple won’t be making any new computer products that cost more than $24,000 without options. Then again, if the rumors that Apple is working on its own car are true, $24,000 might seem like a pittance for a product with the Apple logo on it.

Hilarious Dancing Cartoon Chinese App

The internet has been obsessed with a new Chinese app called Huanshi that turns you into a hilarious dancing cartoon character.

 Hilarious Dancing Cartoon

Huanshi is called MyIdol in the U.S. App Store, but that name is the only English thing about the app — the entire app is still in Chinese. This makes navigation a bit tricky, though many people are saying that the confusion is all part of the fun.

Curious to see what all the fuss was about, I downloaded MyIdol and took a selfie so that the app could scan my face and create a 3D avatar version of me. MyIdol starts everyone else with a default hairstyle and wardrobe, so don’t be surprised if your avatar doesn’t look too similar to yourself at the beginning.

By tapping on the clothing button, you can quickly customize your look by choosing a specific hairstyle, eye color, shirt, pants, shoes, and more — you can even make yourself appear to be crying or add a facial tattoo.

A lot of the styles and customization options are grayed out initially, but if you tap on the item you want and wait for 10 to 20 seconds, the new piece of clothing or pair of shoes will download and you’ll be able to select it.

You can even alter your avatar’s age to make you look younger or older. Once you’ve customized things to your liking, just tap the button in the top right corner to bring up the main menu.

The main menu is how you get to all the fun. The main draw of MyIdol is in creating crazy videos, GIFs, or pictures of your avatar performing, singing, or dancing.

The order of the menu buttons from left to right is as follows: customization, videos, selfies, and GIFs.

These are the GIFs, which are silent animations covering a range of different activities, some more peculiar than others. My favorite was the one that shows you crying and about to chop off your own arm (why is crying such a prevalent theme?).

Here’s a look at some of the selfies that you can download, each showing your avatar in a different still pose.

There’s no doubt that the videos are the best section of MyIdol, however, as each one hilariously animates your avatar in a series of increasingly strange video clips that include music and the ability to dub over the song with your own voice.

Once you’re in the video section of MyIdol, you can tap on a video clip and wait for the scene to download (which can take up to 30 seconds or so).

Here’s me singing and dancing provocatively to Justin Timberlake’s “Sexy Back.”

…here’s me descending from a rope to sing happy birthday.

…and, last but not least, here’s me pole dancing.

Of course, half the fun of MyIdol is sending these videos to your friends, which you can do once the video is done playing by tapping on the large green button and selecting the Photos icon, which saves the video to phone’s Photos app.

While I was certainly a bit skeptical of MyIdol, I can honestly say I haven’t laughed this hard from playing around with app in ages, and it’s surprisingly fun to see how eerily accurate the avatars can look if you take the time to fine-tune all the customization options.

People on Twitter have been freaking out over MyIdol, creating videos for celebrities and even scanning their cats and dogs with the app, leading to some weird results.