Engineering Communities: 


Building Things: 

  • The filament based variety of 3D printing is often what first comes to mind when picturing a 3D printer: a thin rope of plastic being pushed through a heated nozzle and deposited as a molten bead of plastic. While there have been huge technological leaps in the last 5 or so years for non-extrusion based printers, like the expanding material libraries for SLA machines, extrusion systems have lagged behind. A new ‘micro-extruder’ that works with pelletized plastic in a manner similar to injection molding machines is aimed at changing that, opening up new material options (many plastics are difficult to convert to a robust filament but are easily pelletized) and increasing the rate of printing, delivering up to 20 lbs. of material per hour to the printhead. While resolutions and step lines will likely be comparable to existing filament systems, the combination of speed and expanded material selection could make it a compelling tool for production of certain end use industrial components.
  • A good profile of Fanuc and its history, the company that creates machines to make almost anything (including their renowned Robodrill line of milling machines, which power some of Apple's manufacturing lines). The media tends to focus on the charismatic megafauna of the robotics world: fancy multi-axis arms, humanoid robots, AI that experiments with crafting images, but the real heft behind automation are the boxy manufacturing cells produced by companies like Fanuc: the stout, reliable constructions that are more reliable, unrelenting, and exacting than any human worker. The company's long history of numerical control developments that underpin automated fabrication means that more than half of industrial robots (including their competitors) are driven by their systems. In an increasingly automated future, few companies seem better positioned to benefit than Fanuc.
  • Regina Dugan is leaving Facebook after running their consumer hardware program Building 8 for less than two years. Prior to joining Facebook, Dugan was in charge of Google's ambitious ATAP group, known for pursuing some fairly oddball hardware products that were met with almost equal parts wide-eyed praise and dismissive criticisms. Whatever she does next, it's almost certain to be big enough to cast ripples throughout the world of hardware.


More next week.