Innovation in the desktop 3D printer market has been exploding. A lot of attention has been placed on lower-priced printers, but there's been some pretty incredible innovation at the high-end as well.
As evidence of innovation, look no further than the Ultimaker 3. At just about $3,500, it's the most expensive desktop 3D printer we've looked at. Even so, it's not much more expensive than a well-equipped MacBook Pro.
What excites me the most about the Ultimaker 3 is its dual-extrusion capability. This means you can print using two filaments at one time.
Let me be clear: this is big. Bigly. Yuge.
Yes, printing with two filaments at once will allow you to print in two colors, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Where dual extrusion becomes particularly fascinating is printing with two different material types at once.
The most intriguing example is printing with a traditional printing material like PLA or ABS, and a dissolvable filament, like PVA. I'll do a full article and some demos on this in the future, but the basic point here is that you can print designs with geometry that otherwise wouldn't work.
You can also print objects that would normally be too delicate for using a pair of pliers or a hammer to break off support material.
Another use of dual extruders is to fuse a traditional material and a flexible material together. My first thought for how this might be used is in custom vice caps, where the hard material would go against the vice jaws, and the flexible material could be designed to carefully hold an object (like a bottle) that you want secure, but don't want to crush.
In the accompanying video, I unbox the Ultimaker 3 provided to me by Ultimaker. In future columns and videos, we'll set up the printer, add some modifications, and dive deeply into the use of dual extruders.
This is cool. Very, very cool.
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