by Hugh Evans, VP, Corporate Development & Ventures

Yesterday I spent the day in Chattanooga, TN, at GigTank. Under the capable leadership of Mike Bradshaw, GigTank has created the very first 3D printing (3DP) accelerator in the US. Ten 3DP start-ups from across the country have spent the past two months here working with mentors, collaborating and problem-solving with each other, familiarizing themselves with leading print technology, such as 3DS' ProJet 3500, and improving their business plans. Yesterday was Demo Day, the coming out party for all ten.  It was their chance to impress the audience… and to ask investors for money.

It was a great performance, and Chattanooga’s Southern hospitality was in full bloom.  One start-up announced that they were sufficiently impressed by their new surroundings that they will be pulling up stakes from California and relocating to Chattanooga full-time.

This choice highlights the role of geography within our current digital manufacturing revolution.  As of now, there are few geographical incumbents. The digital manufacturing space is still a vastly open plain with generous opportunities for new business creation and employment that will deliver inter-generational benefits to our new age pioneers. Those places that promptly and effectively organize and mobilize towards relocalized manufacturing will create lasting benefits to their citizens. At the frontier of this transition, it is exciting to see mid-sized, industrial cities have equal play to the traditional tech-hubs on the coasts. Building the critical mass that we call an ecosystem is hard to incept, but once begun, it is also hard to extinguish. Chattanooga has raised the table stakes for localities that want to grab a share of this big prize. Which other communities will rise to the challenge?

photo courtesy of GigTank

In the Internet Age, you can search online, find something you like, and make it your own. In the emerging era of customized 3D printing, these possibilities expand in fantastic ways, as demonstrated by Natasha, who has taken personal design assimilation literally. With the help of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, NovaCAD Systems, Think Robot Studios, and artist Melissa Ng, Natasha took a pattern she liked and made it part of her: more specifically as a prosthetic leg after losing own below the knee in a car accident in 2013.

For as long as humans have been using prosthetics, we have been able to rehabilitate functionally, but this step forward in accessible and customizable design eases the accompanying and inevitable aesthetic transition. Through personalized design and manufacture, prosthetics must no longer be so foreign, and can instead incorporate art and design for new opportunities in self-expression. Cases like Natasha’s reveal that more is possible.

From start to finish, the process of creating Natasha’s new leg took just two weeks. This included the 3D scanning, accuracy checks and balances, and CAD file preparation before the physical production, assembly and fitting. In this short span of time, Natasha had a functional figurative sculpture that not only filled the negative space of her body, but that complimented her personality through design. Natasha’s leg was printed on a ProJet® 7000 SLA 3D printer by 3D Systems.

For more on the design process and Natasha’s reaction to her new limb, check out the video below.

As we delve deeper into the digital age, pockets of curiosity are popping up about the future of human-robot interaction. LIREC, a European funded research project, explores our interaction with digital and interactive companions, and partners with the Department of Fundamental Cybernetics and Robotics at Wroclaw University of Technology in Poland. The robotic head project, EMotive headY System (EMYS), was initiated there by Professor Krzysztof Tchon and his team, with the purpose of examining the function of interaction.

The specific task of this project was to create a robotic head capable of generating recognizable facial expressions, and react appropriately to both soothing and irritating stimuli.  

The unique design of the EMYS robot required customized hardware and non-traditional construction, but traditional milling or tooling methods would have added tremendous time and cost to the process. Instead, the research team chose to use 3D printing for both prototyping and final elements. Every EMYS cover element, from the head cover to functional parts, like the moving eyelids and the connectors linking the eyes to the servomotors, were produced using the ProJet HD 3000 3D printer (now sold as the ProJet 3510) in a matter of hours.

To read more about the EMYS, check out this feature. To see the EMYS emote interactively, watch the video below.

Release Date: 
Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - 16:30
Fox 46 Carolinas

By Leanne Gluck, Director of Social Impact

For as long as I have been in the manufacturing industry, we have been talking about the need for three things: to make manufacturing “cool again,” to bridge the Skills Gap, and to strengthen the conversation between industry and education. We talk theoretically about our opportunities to support the next generation and innovation in the US, but the question on my mind has always been the concrete “How?”

Yesterday, 3D Systems and the SME Education Foundation created one answer to that question, announcing a collaborative initiative to enhance high school industrial arts and vocational education classes called M.Lab21. M.Lab 21 is part maker/part manufacturing, and will provide students with starter kits outfitted with the latest 3D design and printing technology, including the Touch haptic device, the Sense 3D scanner, advanced prosumer desktop printers like the CubePro, and a suite of Cubify design software.  But it’s more than just plugging a printer into a classroom. It’s about providing an integrated ecosystem of 21st century tools, along with a curriculum and online platform in order to  build communities of practice. (Above: US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, middle, with 3DS Chief Technology Officer Chuck Hull, far right.)

The initiative was announced at the RAPID conference in Detroit, Michigan, during the morning keynote speech by US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. She encouraged everyone to learn more about the initiative and find ways to get involved, and closed with the idea that: “We have a window of opportunity—right now—to prove to the world that the 21st century will be another ‘Made-in-America’ century.” (Right: US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker greets students at the M.Lab21 announcement.)

At 3DS we are committed to making M.Lab21 innovative and high impact, and we invite teachers, educators, nonprofits and companies passionate about education to join the M.Lab21 initiative and help drive innovation and technology learning today. If you are interested in learning more, please contact

It’s the kind of thing you might need to see to believe, but 3DS is proud to share that our fab-grade 3D printers now match and exceed the speed and productivity of traditional injection molding for the direct manufacture of functional parts. This is big news for manufacturers who want to quickly produce working, precision parts without tooling or a stretched supply chain. Using our SLA and SLS advanced printers, record-setting print speeds can now be achieved, without sacrificing quality and while gaining complexity. This enhancement indicates a shift from low volume production to high volume direct manufacturing of complex parts, across use cases and industries.

Read more about this exciting development here, and to see for yourself, check out the video below.

It all goes to show that we need to expect the unexpected with 3D printing.

For anyone interested in understanding the business implications of additive manufacturing (AM) or making informed choices about how and where to invest in 3D printing, Deloitte is now offering a new massive online open course (MOOC) that is free and open to the public. Perfect for those involved with strategy, supply chain, operations, R&D, manufacturing and product development, you must simply register by July 7th to get access to the opportunities available through this technology.

Deloitte is offering this course in collaboration with 3D Systems and America Makes, and will use this as an opportunity to investigate and explain the business drivers of AM. 

Questions explored will include:

  • What is additive manufacturing?
  • How will AM impact my business?
  • What is happening in key sectors impacted by AM?
  • What factors influence the business case for AM?

Sign up today!

Remember last year when we partnered with Google on an advanced research and development project? Well, there’s been a lot of buzz since then in the tech community about the future of modular phones, and last week’s revelations at Google’s Project Ara Developers Conference have re-energized that excitement. The conference was held April 15th-16th and discussed the progress we’ve made on the forthcoming modular smart phone project that will enable users to upgrade their phones in piecemeal fashion. This means that as individual features are enhanced, rather than chucking your whole device for a new camera, you simply slide out the old one and clip in the new one—badda-bing, badda-boom: you have a better phone with less waste.

One innovative production feature of Project Ara is that the phone modules are making their way to the world through 3D printing. To do this, the dynamic and evolving technology that is changing the way we think and make, is also changing the way it thinks and makes. We partnered with Google last year on the project and are ready to preview some of the early progress. To bring the modular cell phone experience to the market by the anticipated 2015, we are creating a continuous, high-speed 3D printing production platform and fulfillment system to accommodate production-level speeds and volume. This methodology breaks away from the “reciprocating platform” of many contemporary 3D printers. “Reciprocating” refers to the coordinated motion of the print platform and the print head, leading to frequent acceleration and deceleration, which ultimately adds to the overall print time. For more productive print rates (of millions and hopefully billions of units), we’re creating a continuous motion system around a racetrack architecture that will allow the module shells to move in a continuous flow with additional “off ramps” for various finishing steps, including inserts and other module manipulations.

Beyond these process considerations, we’re expanding the materials available in both aesthetic and functional features. We are also advancing material strength, and developing conductive inks in conjunction with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and X5 Systems for printing functional components such as antennas. The modules will additionally be printable with full spectrum, CMYKWT color plus support (meaning cyan, magenta, yellow, black, white and clear, with support), in hard and soft composite materials for the optimum lifespan of parts and ultimate customization by the user. “The combination of exponential creation technology with exponential information technology translates to unprecedented capability and adaptability for the consumer,” said Chuck Hull, Founder and Chief Technology Officer of 3DS. “The scale of this project and its practical functionality are an exciting step into the future.”

How will you make the most out of modular? How will your phone match your personality and expressiveness? Which phone features matter the most to you, and will you be among the first to make history by getting on board with Project Ara?


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