Rapid Ready Roundup: Mcor Technologies, 3D Systems, Hubble and Elementary

Images from the Hubble Telescope are reproduced in plastic to give the blind an opportunity to experience the wonders of space. Courtesy of Hubblesite.

In the course of my diligent efforts to keep you good people up to date on the state of additive manufacturing (AM), I come across many interesting news items. I’ll gather them up every so often and present them in a Rapid Ready Roundup (like this one). You can find the last Roundup here.

For our first Roundup of the 2014, we’ll start by looking across the pond to Ireland. Mcor Technologies has been given a boost with a €15m (a little over $20 million) investment from Silicon Valley venture capitalists. According to the company, the investment will be used to expand and scale up the business. 

Mcor also gives some credit to hobbyist AM systems for raising public awareness about the potential of the technology. This new round of investments comes after the company has had an upswing in sales during the fourth quarter of last year. Conor MacCormack, co-founder and CEO, attributes the increased sales numbers to a more affordable full-color product than offered by competitors.

Moving on, 3D Systems has picked up Gentle Giant Studios, another company with 3D printing credentials. The acquisition brings 3D scanning and modeling know-how to 3DS, along with a number of potentially lucrative licenses. Gentle Giant can produce toys and models for various franchises, including Marvel, Disney, AMC’s The Walking Dead, Avatar, Harry Potter and Star Wars.

“Gentle Giant Studios catapults 3DS’s consumer platform forward with highly curated, licensed characters, content publishing know-how and first-mover experience for the benefit of leading toy companies, movie studios and their merchandising divisions,” said Avi Reichental, President and CEO, 3D Systems.

Next up, it’s easy to take the images produced by the Hubble Telescope for granted, but not everyone is lucky enough to be able to view the images. The blind aren’t able to witness the beauty of the cosmos without descriptive assistance, but that may be changing. The Space Telescope Science Institute is developing 3D printed Hubble images to provide the blind with a touchable experience.

“It’s very easy to take any tool or object that you can actually measure and produce a 3D printout,” said Antonella Nota of the Space Telescope Science Institute. “But it’s very hard to think of an astronomical object about which you know very little. You can measure the sizes and brightnesses of space objects from the images, as well as some of the distances. But it’s really hard to understand their 3D structure. The work is scientific, but it’s also guesswork and artistry to try to produce an object, which printed, will look like the image that Hubble has taken. So, we are basically designing the process from scratch.”

Last for today, the game’s afoot. In the first episode of the second season, the TV show Elementary featured AM. The episode, titled Step Nine, features an updated take on Sherlock Holmes detecting the presence of a 3D printed firearm as the murder weapon. From the look of the weapon used on the show, the 3D printed pistol was based on the “Liberator.” While not the way I’d like to see AM first portrayed to audiences, I guess any publicity is good publicity?

Below you’ll find a video about the effort to translate Hubble images into prints for the blind.

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About the Author

John Newman

John Newman is a Digital Engineering contributor who focuses on 3D printing. Contact him via [email protected] and read his posts on Rapid Ready Technology.

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