A 3D printer that can also scan items to create virtual models could open the technology up to amateurs, says its inventor.
Named the Blacksmith Genesis, the device allows users without any expert knowledge of 3D software to scan any item, edit the scanned virtual model on the computer, and print it out in 3D at a size of up to 6.65 litres.
The device is made by Blacksmith Group, a spin-off company from Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) in Singapore, and is the commercial device to use a rotary platform that revolves to allow 360 degrees scanning.
According to CEO of Blacksmith Group Fang Kok Boon, who started the company alongside NTU engineering graduate Dr Alex Pui Tze Sian, most 3D printers are not accessible to the average consumer due to the complexity of designing a 3D model from scratch on the computer.
“3D printing will be much easier with Blacksmith Genesis, because our users won’t need to design an original work from scratch using 3D software,” he said. “By scanning any physical item, the digitised object can be used as a base for them to customise or even combine with other existing models to form their own 3D object.
“As a child, I designed toys and gadgets but I didn’t have a way to build them. With the advent of 3D printers today, it has opened so many possibilities for inventors in all industries including education, medicine, food, and even construction. What we hope for Blacksmith Genesis is that it will be an empowering tool for aspiring inventors, young and old, to turn their ideas into reality.”
The Blacksmith Genesis also features remote live-monitoring and automatic error detection using an in-built camera, that allows users to monitor the printing process on their smartphone via an Internet connection and stop or start printing at any time.
The company is mentored by Professor Chua Chee Kai, director of NTU’s Additive Manufacturing Centre and the world’s most cited scientist in the field of 3D printing as ranked by Thomson-Reuters.
“3D printing is a disruptive innovation that has revolutionised the manufacturing and biomedical industries. However, it is very hard for people to operate and buy industrial-grade 3D printers which are able to print high-quality 3D parts down to the smallest detail. They also usually cost from a few hundred thousand dollars to several million dollars,” Chua said.
“While low-cost 3D printers are accessible to the public, they are still very hard to programme and assemble. Having an affordable, high-quality 3D printer that is easy to use is what the market is missing and this is where Blacksmith Group will bridge the gap.
“Blacksmith Genesis with its unique rotary platform design is a great example of how scientists can bring innovations from the lab to the industry and in this case, all the way into consumers’ homes.
“It has always been my wish that 3D printers will be as common as the inkjet and laser printers now found in many homes and offices. I hope having this type of creative experiences will also inspire more Singaporean students to pick up engineering as their choice of study.”
The Blacksmith Group is currently incubated at NTUitive, NTU’s wholly-owned subsidiary which helps NTU start-ups commercialise their innovations.
The company will host a $75,000 (£45,000) crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.com to fund the manufacturing of the new 3D printers that starts today at 8.30pm Singapore Time (1.30pm GMT) and runs until 10 September.