Makers on the Move

Mobile Fabrication: 3D Printing with a Phone and a Pen

Mobile Fabrication

3D printing is a pretty static activity, right? Wrong! A new paper on “Mobile Fabrication” could liberate us from the chains of the desktop. 

What it would be like if you could 3D print stuff all the time, everywhere and anywhere you like? That’s the scenario posed by the inquisitive boffins at the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam, Germany.

Using a modified 3D printer and 3D pen, they’ve worked out a system of printing stuff on the fly. They’ve given it the catchy name “Mobile Fabrication“, and are about to present a paper to the User Interface Software and Technology Symposium in Tokyo, Japan.

Thijs Roumen, a graduate student at the HPI, compares his 3D printing project to the evolution of personal computing, where computers shrank from machines that filled rooms into easy-to-use handheld devices.

“We were curious why 3D printing never really made that transition,” he explained to the New Scientist. “What would the real world look like if we made things on the go, rather than in a controlled office environment?”

Check out the video below to see Mobile Fabrication in action.

Mobile Fabrication is Quicker with Common Objects

The foundation of the project is establishing a list of common, useful objects that people may spontaneously want to use. A carabiner for a backpack, for example, or a stopper for a bottle of wine.

Rather than just guessing at what they might be, however, Roumen and his colleagues conducted several surveys to gather information. Next, they built a prototype that could store a digital repository of these items, and then quickly fabricate them as needed.

In their quest to develop a mobile fabrication ecosystem, the team modified an M3D Printer and a 3D pen. They also designed a mobile app to store the library of objects. In real-world tests, the team made a button for a shirt, and a hex key to fix a loose bolt on a bicycle light.

For the next stage, the team are researching how to engineer a more capable mobile fabrication device — as compact as a smartphone — built around a resin extruder and an ultraviolet LED.

Something tells us the ONO Smartphone 3D Printer may soon have competition…!

Mobile Fabrication
Walkthrough: a user wants to go for a nightly bike ride (a,b). They find out the lamp sags and needs a hex key (c,d,e). He opens a custom app to search for a solution (f). He prints the solution on his portable 3D printer (g,h).The lamp is fixed and he rides off.