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The Future of 3D Printing According to Love and Robots’ CCO

| by Alex Giamas Follow 10 Followers on Dec 08, 2014. Estimated reading time: 3 minutes |

Shortly after winning the ESB Spark of Genius award at the Dublin Web Summit I had the pleasure of interviewing Aoibheann O’Daly, Chief Communications Officer at Love & Robots. We discuss her take on 3D printing and the future of 3D printing industry.

InfoQ: At your speech in the Dublin Web Summit you mentioned using SLS technology for 3D printing and argued that it is superior to existing methods. Can you elaborate on how SLS is better and how will it change the future of 3D printing?

SLS (selective laser sintering) is only one type of 3D printing - there are actually seven. Most people are familiar with FDM (fused deposition modelling) printing, which companies like Makerbot and Ultimaker use. It mostly uses plastic, and this type of printing is great for prototyping because it’s quick and relatively cheap. However, the finish is quite rough, and not nearly good enough for finished products. This is why we use SLS printing. It starts out as a powder and the finish on these products is much more fine, and items can also be polished for a very smooth finish. The range of materials available is also better: nylon is the most common, but it’s also possible to print in metals, like gold, silver, bronze, brass, steel, titanium, and even ceramic. Love & Robots uses all of these materials and we’re always looking out for other potential materials.

Some other types of 3D printing also lend themselves well to finished products. MCor has developed their own type of paper 3D printing, which creates beautiful full color products. We have been discussing a collaboration for products made with with MCor in the future as well.

InfoQ: Custom iPhone cases and clocks are cool, but when are we going to get more complex items out of 3D printers? Do you plan on expanding to other industries?

There are already printers out there which can print things as complicated as ears and hearts with “bioprinting”, but those are in the medical space. In the commercial space that we’re in, the biggest inhibitor of complex items is materials. At the moment, each product can only really be made of one single material - mixing is hard. Although there are new materials being invented all the time. One of the most exciting ones I’ve read about is carbomorph, which is electro-conductive. If this material became commercially available, it would make it possible to print electronics, which is really cool. We could definitely see ourselves moving into that area in the future, as it becomes possible.

InfoQ: A partnership with Amazon has been reported in the media. Can you tell us more about your collection of items in Amazon’s store and how is the store going to change the way consumers think of 3D printed products?

We are in the process of getting our products ready for the Amazon store, where they will be completely customizable. The 3D tools we have developed make it possible for customers to play with 3D models in real time, in their browser, without downloading any software. This is something that has never been available on a platform like Amazon before, so we are combining the ease of instant shopping with the desire to create something unique and personal. We think this is when people will begin to see 3D printing as something tangible that they can actually use to create products as easily as buying mass produced ones. In a few years, it will be strange when you CAN’T customize the products you buy – that’s where this is all going!

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