How Pandora was Colonized: 3D printing at Solidworks World 2010

Post by Chris McAndrew of Official Internet Correspondent for Solidworks World 2010

James Cameron alluded yesterday in his keynote that 3D printing played a major part in colonizing the world of Pandora in Avatar. Though printing out massive dump trucks on alien planets is still stuff of science fiction it is not all that far off. The partner pavilion here at Solidworks is loaded with rapid prototyping devices of all sorts. I showed earlier a few of the items that came off a ZCorp printer. Today I was given another one, this time a shiny red skull. The skull was built off of actual data from a human skull and is quite disturbing due both to the realism and the veined red coloring. Keep in mind the coloring here is all created directly in the print.

ZCorp Printed Skull presented to Chris McAndrew of

Of course skulls are fun desktop items, but what about real world applications. I had the chance to speak with Julie from ZCorp on the usability of printed items.

The pricing of ZCorp was not something I discussed, though “cheap” would not be the word that first comes to mind. The company shouting about their prices was Solido. Solido is a competitor, in a sense of ZCorp, but the material and capabilities are markedly different. ZCorp uses a powder to create their items and, as such, all material not used in the print can be reused. As a counterpoint Solido uses sheets of material and a razor to slide each layer. The requirement of sheets of material allows them to package their printer along with consumable “Kits”. A kit contains all necessary materials, sheets, adhesive, cutters, to produce a part and there pricing announcement was a subscription service of kits (24) over a 36 month time period for the misleadingly low price of $514/month. I have neither the time nor the patience to create an apples to apples comparison for both products, needles to say both are still serious investments that are geared towards the corporate world rather than independent contractors or hobbyists.

Even at this hefty price it was exciting to see announcement that are bringing the futuristic option of desktop 3D printing closer to reality. Below Ron from Solido shows off some of the capabilities. Big thanks to Ben Eadie of for the wonderful production and allowing me to take over his mike and step in front of the camera.