3D printing is cheap enough to be accessible to any business, and consumer models under $1000 are on the horizon for 2016. While at CES, I kept an eye out for both 3D printers and scanners, and saw quite a few interesting variations on the technology.
1. Voxel8 3D Electronics Printer
The most interesting 3D printer at CES 2016 actually debuted in 2014, though it hasn’t hit the market yet. The Voxel8 electronics printer is easily one of my favorite pieces of tech gear from CES.
Due to be released in the second quarter of 2016, the Voxel8 sells for $9000, and was designed by Harvard professor Jennifer A. Lewis in partnership with a Harvard/MIT team of engineers and businessmen.
Here’s a video of my demonstration of the Voxel8 with co-founder Jack Minardi.
What makes Voxel8 so unique is that it has a dual head. One head is set up for the typical plastic filament, while the second head is set up for a variety of metals, and this is where the team excels.
The Voxel8 team is actually a materials company and makes a variety of metal alloys specifically for usage with 3D printers.
On display were miniature drones and other circuitry, and the product is theoretically capable of 3D printing a 3D printer (assuming you understood how to program it to do so – it’s not like they’ll include the template with the machine).
With a Voxel8 printer in your possession, you’ll be able to print the same 3D models other 3D printers can accomplish, but you’ll also have the option of printing with metal. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re limited to electronics – really anything metal could be printed, but it’s not a cost-effective option for consumers to purchase the amount of metal toner it would take.
2. Cel Robox Modular 3D Printer
The Cel Robox is an interesting 3D printer in that it’s created using a modular, plug-and-play approach. This means it’s not only a little easier for the average person to use than your typical 3D printer, but it’ll also be possible to change the print heads for a dual material head similar to that on the Voxel8.
Although it won’t be able to utilize metal toners without going through Voxel8 (or spending tons of money on R&D),Robox still has plenty of partnerships in the materials industry and are developing modules that could turn Robox into an automated light machining rig, a 2D drag knife cutter or even a paste extruding system for ceramics, or chocolate.
Here’s some footage of Robox from CES 2016, which is already available on Amazon for under $1500:
Some important features of this 3D printer are its high resolution capability of 20 microns (.02 mm), super-efficient heating elements, and needle valves to assist in material viscosity, a common problem in 3D printing different materials.
At just under $1500, Robox is the best bet for 3D printing for people who can’t afford the Voxel8.
3. Cappasity 3D Scanner
There are a few different ways to accomplish 3D scanning, and Cappasity has them all covered. This full-service company offers 3D printing and scanning solutions for enterprise.
From full-body scanners to a box that takes pics from every angle to create 3D models, Cappasity is what ecommerce sites need to prepare content for future augmented and virtual reality applications.
Here’s a video of my demonstration of Cappasity from Marianna Alshina at International CES 2016’s Eureka Park:
At its most basic, the laptop/tablet cloud 3D scanning option (Easy 3D Scan) utilizes a laptop’s camera (or a Canon DSLR connected to it) to scan an object. You just need to rotate the object for the software to create a 3D model of the object. This is fantastic for people who want to create VR content but can’t afford a 360 camera. Instead of on-rails experiences, you can create an AutoCad-driven virtual world that can be actively explored. The basic software is free, and allows up to 2 free models per month. $49 and $99 monthly subscriptions are also available to increase these limitations.
A step up from the cloud software designed for home users is the Easy 3D Box, which creates high-resolution 3D models by photographing the object from multiple angles at once and utilizing a process similar to video stitching or texturing to create the 3D model without any post-processing work needed. In addition to scanning the objects, each of these solutions will also gather accurate dimensional data.
The largest setup is the Easy 3D Booth, which utilizes the same technology, but is large enough to enable full-body scans. This is more of an enterprise solution than a consumer one, as your average person probably won’t be able to scan anything other than themselves wearing different clothes, which has very little use.
In an enterprise setting, however, 3D body scans are routinely used in video games, film production, professional athletics, and more. The wide range of abilities and high-resolution detail of the scanner makes Cappasity my favorite 3D scanner from CES 2016.
Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. His work appears in High Times, Huffington Post, Fast Company, Main Street, and more.