Summary:

The home 3D printing movement has part of its roots in a machine that could print food, electronics and other unusual materials. Structur3D is considering a standalone printer or retrofit for RepRaps.

Structur3D Printing
photo: Structur3D Printing

One of the first desktop 3D printers was designed to print more than just plastic trinkets. The Fab@Home printer, which was based out of Cornell University, was also built to print electronics and food; two printing areas that have seen revived interest in recent years.

Canada-based Structur3D Printing is the latest project to attempt to bring more material options to desktop printer users. Though the team said they are still in stealth mode, a survey posted to Reddit Thursday revealed a few details. The team is considering three different products: a standalone printer with two extruders, a kit that would allow RepRap owners to retrofit their machine and a handheld pen-like printer.

The website lists clay, metal clay, ceramic, wood filler, silicone, chocolate, cake frosting, fondant, cookie dough, gingerbread, meringue, and marzipan as possible printing materials, but also states that users can experiment with any paste. An interesting option is conductive material, which could be used to print sensors and other electronics.

Photos show that there is some refinement to be done. The Structur3D extruders print in big, thick lines, which means they are more adept at printing large quantities than delicate details. That’s useful for printing an entire cake or clay pot, but not for intricate icing or circuits.

Structur3D Printing paste

I like the idea of being able to integrate this into a RepRap. A lot of standalone printers with similar, but specialized capabilities (check out the MiniMetalMaker) have emerged recently. While those might tempt artisans, a more casual 3D printer might already have a RepRap laying around, making the tech more accessible.

The Structur3D team said they will have updates on the project in the next few weeks.

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