Is a $100 3D Printer Too Good to Be True? | Innovation | Smithsonian

Is a $100 3D Printer Too Good to Be True?

An inventor has created a 3D printer that uses lasers to sculpt objects out of resin

smithsonian.com

3D printed object produced by the Peachy Printer. Credit: Rylan Grayston

If you’re waiting until 3D printers become as affordable as inkjet versions, that day has finally arrived. Well, sorta.

Touted as the world’s first $100 replicator, the Peachy Printer is quite portable, easy to use and ridiculously cheap. The idea, which began as a experiment to see whether such a device can be built using nothing more than household materials and parts, is now nearing a finished product. So, in a final push to bring “Peachy” to the masses, inventor Rylan Grayston launched a fundraising campaign on crowd-sourcing website Kickstarter, initially with a modest goal of 50,000 Canadian dollars. With five days left, the project has raised over 600,000 Canadian dollars and is slated for production by July 2014.

So what’s the catch? You’d figure if there was a way to mass produce the technology at such a low price point, we’d be drowning in homemade plastic trinkets by now. The important thing to note is that the Peachy Printer isn’t a 3D printing machine in the traditional sense, in that objects are printed layer by layer based on design specifications. Instead, it relies on a process known as photolithography, wherein lasers are used to sculpt the object out of source materials, such as resin. Grayston shot a promo video that explains the somewhat complex process behind how the printer works (although he assures us that actually using it is pretty simple).

Basically, the lasers, which carve out the object, are controlled by a pair of small mirrors that continually redirect the laser’s target position. Once a scanned blueprint is uploaded, commands are sent as specifically tuned audio sound waves that alter the angle of the mirrors. To get the sculpting mechanism to work from top to bottom, the resin is placed atop a bed of saltwater, which slowly rises, lifting the material as more water is fed in through the side.

According to Grayston, allowing the liquid resin to float on water removes the need for microprocessors and other expensive parts necessary for manipulating the platform. “One way to think of Peachy is that it’s like a coffee maker, just no hot water,” Grayston told Mancave Daily. “You put water into the top and the water drains down to the bottom and makes the resin rise to the top as the object is formed. Then you pull the object out, maybe cure it in the sun for a bit to harden it best. Then repeat to make something new.”

However, there are a few drawbacks. Without a testable final product, supporters are taking a risk that the invention might not turn out to be so, say, peachy? The printer also comes disassembled, requiring the owner to piece it together themselves (Grayston assures us it can be easily done by an inexperienced assembler in about an hour). As for the 3D scanner attachment that Grayston notes is available , that’ll cost an additional $250 and requires an external camera.

Ultimately, it’s unlikely anyone’s going to be using the Peachy to print the kind of sophisticated objects like musical instruments or food that higher-end manufacturing machines can whip up. But for the trinket-lover in us, it’ll serve just fine.

About Tuan C. Nguyen
Tuan C. Nguyen

Tuan C. Nguyen is a Silicon Valley-based journalist specializing in technology, health, design and innovation. His work has appeared in ABCNews.com, NBCNews.com, FoxNews.com, CBS' SmartPlanet and LiveScience.

Read more from this author

Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus