13 September 2012
Three dimensional printing growing in popularity
TORONTO—A Toronto-area printer has added another dimension to its services.
 
Entire Imaging Solutions (formerly Entire Reproductions) is no stranger to 3D printing, having entered that market about five years ago. President Andy Chiodo said the company started with one 3D printer (powder-based), utilized primarily for displays such as model buildings for architects, while the company has since added a resin-based machine at a cost of more than $200,000 that produces prototypes with movable parts.


 Entire Imaging's production manager John Duke shows off a Contex 3D printer

Aside from clients in the architectural world, Chiodo said Entire has a wide variety of 3D printing clients in the manufacturing and automotive sectors. Entire is also looking to tap into the medical world; Chiodo said from an MRI image it can produce a printed body part that surgeons can examine to speed up an operation.
 
Chiodo said 3D printing requires technical staff, and it's expensive to run the machines. Some prototypes could take 48 to 100 hours to print, he said, noting the machines are automated.
 
While only a small percentage of Entire's business is 3D printing, "it brings other business in," he explained, using architect clients as an example. "The model is maybe $10,000, but that can produce $100,000 of printing for marketing and blueprints."
 
Entire may be ahead of the curve when it comes to printers thinking in three dimensions. However, 3D printing created some buzz at Drupa, with Ricoh and Heidelberg making mention of entering the market.
 
Meanwhile, consumer 3D printers are growing in popularity and becoming more affordable (there’s actually one called the Replicator, think Star Trek) while there's also some bizarre 3D printing services popping up. Take for example an American company called Cremation Solutions — that prints 3D urns that mimic the late person's face (or as shown in the sample on the left, a living person like President Obama).
 

Forget dinner? No problem. An American company is looking to develop a three-dimensional printed meat. Modern Meadow has received a healthy grant to develop consumer biomaterial, including an “edible cultured meat prototype."
 
Thiel Foundation (Breakout Labs), which is funding the effort, explains "bioprinting" is a technology that could also produce leather, thus sparing animals.
 
3D printing is considered more environmentally friendly by some because it's "additive" technology — it builds the objects one layer at a time, rather than extracting an item from a larger block and creating waste.
— Jeff Hayward
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