OLO 3D Inc., a company that created a miniature 3D-printer that works with just a simple $99 gadget and your smartphone, raised over $2.3 million, concluding its Kickstarter campaign on April 20.
The company plans to start shipping the devices to its U.S. backers in September, and internationally in November.
How Does It Work?
OLO uses materials called Daylight Resins. They are liquid, but solidify when exposed to the white light emitted by smartphone displays.
To print an object, you load the design file on the OLO app, put a transparent screen over the display of your phone, place the device on top of it, and pour in the resin.
The device is a plastic box that blocks outside light and also prevents the resin from spilling out. It also has a “building plate”—a plate inside that can move up and down in the box thanks to a battery powered motor.
Then the app lights up individual parts of the smartphone’s display causing the resin right on top of those parts to solidify. At the same time, these solidifying parts stick to the “building plate.”
When the first bits of resin solidify, the “building plate” moves up a little. And because the solidified resin stuck to the plate, it will move up together with it.
Meanwhile, the app lights up different parts of the display causing another layer of resin to solidify and stick to the other solid resin parts.
As the bits of resin continuously solidify, the building plate gradually moves up, pulling the 3D-printed object out of the resin.
It really seems like the object grows out of your smartphone’s screen. In reality though, it grows out of the little puddle of resin that reacts to the light emitted by your phone.
OLO was created by Italian 3D-printing veterans Filippo Moroni and Pietro Gabriele. They’ve spent over 15 years in the field and have already designed several 3D-printers.
Yet even as the technology became more affordable, the cheapest 3D-printers still cost a couple hundred dollars. Even as more and more people have 3D-printers, the machines are often lying around idle, Gabriele told Epoch Times in a phone interview.
Moroni and Gabriele wanted to create a 3D-printer that anybody could afford (though we’re still talking about people with smartphones who can afford a $99 gadget).
They wanted to “democratize” 3D-printing and also to give people a way to easily try out 3D-printing, so as to inspire more people to use the technology and give all those idle machines something to do.
The technology is already here. Dentists have been using light curing resins for decades and there have already been some 3D-printers that used resins cured by ultraviolet light.
Moroni and Gabriele just needed a resin that would react to the specific light of smartphone displays.
At the same time, because OLO is powered by a smartphone app, people can download and share their designs online and send them to each other as messages straight from the app.
Gabriele said they received pledges from some developing countries with a message that their device gives some people the first chance to try 3D-printing.
With all the possibilities ahead, the only remaining question: What will users of the app create?
The company boast printing resolution up to 42 microns. The gadget is powered by four AA batteries and the resins are available in different colors, including translucent.
You can use different smartphones, including large ones like iPhone 6+ or Galaxy 7, but not ones with curved displays. Also the phone needs to be connected to a charger and in ‘airplane mode’ with WiFi and all alerts and notifications off.
The printing speed depends on the display brightness. Apple’s iPhone 6 can print an object an inch tall in about 2 hours.
The transparent screen (or rather film) you put on top of your phone’s display needs to be replaced after every 3 prints, the company states. It’s not advisable to pour the resin straight onto your phone’s display, so the film seems necessary. It cost $5 per 20-pack.
You also need to clean the device after each print—wiping it with paper towel and then with rubbing alcohol. You can pour the remaining resin back in the bottle (but you’ll need to fish out all solid pieces out of it).
OLO also advertises it can open common 3D software formats, like .STL, .OBJ, and .PLY, so you can print a variety of designs, as long as they fit in the box (maximum volume is 3 x 5 x 2 inches).
The resins come in 100 ml (3.4 oz) bottles at $15 each and have an expiration date of about one year. You also should store them in a dry place at room temperature (50-95 degrees Fahrenheit) and don’t expose them to light (they come in black bottles).
OLO will cost $99.
If you think OLO is just too small to be practical, the company plans to release a version for tablets next year.