Category Archives: Technology

World’s First 3D Printed Supercar is Unveiled – 0-60 in 2.2 Seconds


The automobile industry has been relatively stagnant for the past several decades. While new car designs are released annually, and computer technology has advanced by leaps and bounds, the manufacturing processes and the effects that these processes have on our environment have remain relatively unchanged. Over the past decade or so, 3D printing has shown some promise in the manufacturing of automobiles, yet it has not quite lived up to its potential, at least according to Kevin Czinger, founder and CEO of a company called Divergent Microfactories (DM).


Today, at the O’Reilly Solid Conference in San Francisco, Kevin Czinger is about to shock the world with a keynote presentation he will give titled, “Dematerializing Auto Manufacturing.”

“Divergent Microfactories is going to unveil a supercar that is built based on 3D printed parts,” Manny Vara of LMG PR tells “It is very light and super fast — can you say faster acceleration than a McLaren P1, and 2x the power-to-weight ratio of a Bugatti Veyron? But the car itself is only part of the story. The company is actually trying to completely change how cars are made in order to hugely reduce the amount of materials, power, pollution and cost associated with making traditional cars.”

The vehicle, called the Blade, has 1/3 the emissions of an electric car and 1/50 the factory capital costs of other manufactured cars.  Unlike previous 3D printed vehicles that we have seen, such as Local Motors’ car that they have printed several times, DM’s manufacturing process differs quite a bit. Instead of 3D printing an entire vehicle, they 3D print aluminum ‘nodes’ which act in a similar fashion to Lego blocks. 3D printing allows DM to create elaborate and complex shaped nodes which are then joined together by off-the-shelf carbon fiber tubing. Once the nodes are printed, the chassis of a car can be completely assembled in a matter of minutes by semiskilled workers. The process of constructing the chassis is one which requires much less capital and other resources, and doesn’t require the extremely skilled and trained workers that other car manufacturing techniques rely on. The important goal that DM is striving for, and it appears they have accomplished, is the reduction of pollution and environmental impact.

Individual 3D printed aluminum nodes

Today, Czinger and the rest of the team at Divergent Microfactories will be unveiling their first prototype car, the Blade.

“Society has made great strides in its awareness and adoption of cleaner and greener cars,” explains CEO Kevin Czinger. “The problem is that while these cars do now exist, the actual manufacturing of them is anything but environmentally friendly. At Divergent Microfactories, we’ve found a way to make automobiles that holds the promise of radically reducing the resource use and pollution generated by manufacturing. It also holds the promise of making large-scale car manufacturing affordable for small teams of innovators. And as Blade proves, we’ve done it without sacrificing style or substance. We’ve developed a sustainable path forward for the car industry that we believe will result in a renaissance in car manufacturing, with innovative, eco-friendly cars like Blade being designed and built in microfactories around the world.”

Assembling of the 3D printed nodes and carbon fiber tubing to construct the chassis

The Blade is one heck of a supercar, capable of going from 0-60 MPH in a mere 2.2 seconds. It weighs just 1,400 pounds, and is powered by a 4-cylinder 700-horsepower bi-fuel internal combustion engine that is capable of using either gasoline or compressed natural gas as fuel. The car chassis is made up of approximately 70 3D printed aluminum nodes, and it took only 30 minutes to build the chassis by hand. The chassis itself weighs just 61 pounds.

“The body of the car is composite,” Vara tells us. “One cool thing is that the body itself is not structural, so you could build it out of just about any material, even something like spandex. The important piece, structurally, is the chassis.”

Kevin Czinger, Founder and CEO, Divergent Microfactories, Inc. with the Blade Supercar

The initial plan is for DM to scale up to an annual production of 10,000 of these limited supercars, making them available to potential customers. This isn’t all though, as DM doesn’t merely plan on just being satisfied by manufacturing cars via this method. They plan on making the technology available to others as well. On top of selling these supercars, they will also sell the tools and technologies so that small teams of innovators and entrepreneurs can open microfactories and build their own cars, based on their own unique designs. Whether it is a sedan, pickup truck or another type of supercar, it is all possible with this proprietary 3D printed node technology.

Pre-painted Blade supercar

The node-enabled chassis of cars built using this unique 3D printing method, are up to 90% lighter, much stronger, and more durable than cars built with more traditional techniques. Could we be looking at a great ideology change within the automobile manufacturing industry? Lighter, stronger, more durable, more affordable, environmentally satisfying vehicles are definitely something that just about anyone should consider a step in the right direction.

3D printing has been touted as a technology of the future, for the future, enabling individual customization of many products. Now, the ability for entrepreneurs to enter an industry previously overrun by huge corporations could mean a future with individualized, custom vehicles which perform and appear just the way we want them. If Divergent Microfactories has a say, this will be our future, and that future isn’t too far off.

pre-painted Blade supercar


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The Death Of Conversation: I Photograph People Obsessed With Their Smartphones

Posted by babycakes romero

I don’t have a problem with portable tech specifically, because our devices facilitate our lives, but I believe it is making people seriously dull…

I started to photograph people in company on their phones as there was a certain symmetry to them and it appealed on a visual level, but as I continued I noticed an inherent sadness to the proceedings.

Before mobile phones were invented, people would have had no choice but to interact. However, that is no longer necessary as we can all now “pretend” we are doing something “important” on our devices rather than think of something to say. This is killing conversation. I believe it’s increasing social pain.

Most people used to use cigarettes as a social prop. Admittedly, they’re bad for your health, but at least they didn’t turn people into ‘plugged in’ bores. Together we must be strong and release ourselves from the shackles of smartphones and bring face-to-face chat back!

More info:




The Most Devastating Look At How Barack Obama’s Digital Team Crushed Mitt Romney’s And Won Him The Election

via Business Insider: 

The Obama campaign’s digital operations proved to be a crucial point of success that led to the re-election of President Barack Obama in November. 

Based on a sophisticated effort and larger emphasis on digital and new media, the Obama campaign engaged supporters and raised an unprecedented amount of money through its digital efforts.

How did the Obama campaign become so effective in the digital realm? Engage, an interactive digital political agency in Washington, D.C., recently published a report entitled “Inside the Cave.” It features a 93-page, step-by-step in-depth look at the secrets to the Obama digital team’s success.

We’ve collected 15 of the report’s key topics and published them here.

(Note: A special thanks to Engage president Patrick Ruffini for permission to republish parts of the report.)


“The Cave” was the site of the Obama analytics team in Chicago where a group of programmers revolutionized the way that campaigns are run.

Right off the bat, it’s clear that the Obama organization lapped Romney when it came to employee presence online, the number of donors, and the size of the email list support.

While Romney’s campaign beefed up staff, it still was far from enough to compete with the Obama digital and analytics staff.

The team Obama built came from a wide array of startups, tech firms and even particle physics labs.

Here’s where the Obama analytics team delivered: They were able to accurately discover the real effect of early voting and predict with startling accuracy how people would vote.

The beefed-up digital squad had a large effect on fundraising, amounting for the vast majority of campaign revenue.

One single email — with an “I will be outspent” subject line — pulled in $2.7 million alone.

The email pleas went through a significant amount of testing among focus groups to see what subject lines and body text were the most effective at eliciting a response.

Quick Donate was an important feature that made giving easy — it allowed mobile users to give and streamlined the whole process.

From the internal site system alone, the Obama campaign received $250 million from supporters.

Their website was built to last and designed to serve as a useful resource. Traffic to dwarfed traffic to Romney’s site.

The internal system was vigorously tested constantly to design for unprecedented use. The closest thing the Romney campaign had — known as “Project Orca” — was untested and flopped on Election Day.

The Obama campaign also invested an unprecedented amount in online ads.

Even more, the campaign took a “Moneyball” approach to TV ad buys, looking at metrics that normally went unnoticed to reach a core audience, targeted audience more effectively.

The Obama digital model will endure and serve as the model for any serious campaign to come, outliving phone calls, landline polling and earlier campaign structures.


How Tablets — Not Phones — Have Taken Over The Lives Of TV Viewers

via Business Insider: 


As more and more mobile devices proliferate the market, you might start noticing more iPhones or tablets in the lap of someone watching TV than bowls of popcorn.

According to a new Nielsen report, 40 percent of Americans use their smartphones or tablets while watching TV at least once a day. Almost 80 percent use a second screen at least once a month.

But even though smartphone penetration has reached more than 50 percent and tablets are only in 20 percent of homes, 41 percent of tablet owners use their devices at least once a day while watching TV — which is 2 percent more than Americans who own and simultaneously use their smartphones.

This is huge news for advertisers trying to create second screen television experiences to mobile devices, especially considering that tablet penetration is only going up.

But there are a few important details they should know about the tablet audience.

First off, as shown in the graphic below (click to enlarge), simultaneous TV and tablet users skew slightly older.


nielsen tv tablet smartphone

Nielsen Connected Devices Study Q2 2012


Smartphone and tablet users are also doing different things with their devices when they watch. For example, 36 percent of people aged 35-54, and 44 percent of people aged 55-64, look up more information about the shows they are watching on their tablets. Smartphone users are primarily checking social media sites.


nielsen tv tablet smartphone

Nielsen Connected Devices Study Q2 2012


While more women than men use their smartphones while watching TV, the gender divide is even for tablets.

nielsen tv tablet smartphone

Nielsen Connected Devices Study Q2 2012

3D Printer Could Transform Moon Dirt Into Lunar Base

via Space: 

For space scientists dreaming up a manned base on the moon, 3D printing with lunar dust looms as an attractive possibility. Such on-demand fabrication would allow astronauts to repair broken parts, manufacture spare ones and maybe even build structures, all out of the dirt scooped from under their boots.

In a new study involving artificial moon dust, engineers have shown that the technology is close to becoming reality.

With 10 pounds of simulated lunar dirt (or regolith) in hand, NASA officials approached researchers at Washington State University and challenged them to melt and resolidify the fake moon rock using 3D laser printing technology, which produces objects layer by layer based on a computer model.



The simulant is an expensive combination of silicon, aluminum, calcium, iron and magnesium oxides. Meant to mimic the properties of the regolith found on the moon, the powdery material had a particle structure resembling that of ceramics.

Because of their tendency to crack, ceramics can be tough to manipulate using 3D printers. But the WSU researchers, including husband-and-wife team Amit Bandyopadhyay and Susmita Bose, had previously demonstrated that ceramic-like material can be re-formed with an on-demand fabricator to create custom-made bone scaffolding.

For the new study, the researchers fed the raw simulant powder into a 3D printer, heating the material to high temperatures and printing it out in smooth half-millimeter (0.02 inches) layers to form small cylindrical shapes with no visible cracks. The structures that came out of the printer were about as hard as typical soda lime glass, the researchers explain in a study detailing the recent experiments in the Rapid Prototyping Journal. [10 Cool Moon Discoveries]

“It doesn’t look fantastic, but you can make something out of it,” Bandyopadhyay said in a statement.

Bandyopadhyay said additives to the moon dust, such as titanium, could produce stronger objects. But he emphasized in a phone interview with that this technology is still in its first-generation phase and that the study was aimed at showing that the concept works with moon dust alone.

While building a lunar habitat out of moon regolith might be a distant possibility, Bandyopadhyay indicated that repairing broken tools seems like the most feasible use for the technology in the nearer future. In addition to producing free-standing 3D objects, the team showed that the fake moon rock could be used to make a “superglue” to join together broken parts, Bandyopadhyay said.

3D printers that process lunar regolith could save on resupply costs for a manned base on the moon, which NASA reportedly been considering as a possible gateway to destinations farther out in space.

“It is an exciting science fiction story, but maybe we’ll hear about it in the next few years,” Bandyopadhyay said. “As long as you can have additive manufacturing set up, you may be able to scoop up and print whatever you want. It’s not that far-fetched.”

And beyond moon dust, the technology could be adapted to Martian soil, for manned missions to the Red Planet. Bandyopadhyay, however, said he hasn’t been able to get his hands on any artificial Mars dirt yet.

Vision-Restoring Implants that Fit Inside the Eye

via MIT Tech Review: 

A coming generation of devices promise clear, high-quality vision for the blind.

Light bursts: This illustration shows nanoscale electrodes stimulating retinal neurons with electrical impulses to send light information to the brain.

A coming generation of retinal implants that fit entirely inside the eye will use nanoscale electronic components to dramatically improve vision quality for the wearer, according to two research teams developing such devices.

Current retinal prostheses, such as Second Sight’s Argus II, restore only limited and fuzzy vision to individuals blinded by degenerative eye disease. Wearers can typically distinguish light from dark and make out shapes and outlines of objects, but not much more.

The Argus II, the first “bionic eye” to reach commercial markets, contains an array of 60 electrodes, akin to 60 pixels, that are implanted behind the retina to stimulate the remaining healthy cells. The implant is connected to a camera, worn on the side of the head, that relays a video feed.

A similar implant, made by Bionic Vision Australia, incorporates just 24 electrodes. With so few electrodes, the amount of visual information transmitted to the brain is limited: text, for example, is difficult to read. Second Sight recently announced a method by which Argus II wearers are able to visualize Brailleinstead of traditional text.

Recognizing this limitation, both Second Sight and Bionic Vision Australia have announced that they are developing next-generation devices with 200-plus electrodes. But arrays of nanoscale electrodes, which are currently being incorporated into new retina devices, could someday give blind people 20/20 vision.

“Smaller materials do have the possibility of giving higher-resolution images,” says Shawn Kelly, a bioengineer at Carnegie Mellon University, who is developing a microscale retinal prosthesis. “Smaller electrodes can get closer to individual nerves, and you can have many more of them.”



In Israel, a company called Nano Retina has developed an implant that consists of photosensors, circuits, and 676 electrodes, all small enough to fit onto a single implant the size of a child’s fingernail; unlike the Argus II, the device requires no external camera or wires. “The eye is the most confined space in the body,” says Ra’anan Gefen, managing director of Nano Retina. “That’s where miniaturization is needed.”

The company has already tested a prototype in pigs, and it “worked beautifully,” Gefen says. They are now building a human prototype that should improve on both the quality and the number of electrodes, potentially reaching up to 5,000. “Our target is to get to 20/20 [vision],” says Gefen. “I’m sure we can get there.” The company hopes to enter clinical trials within two years.

Another team, this one at the University of California, San Diego, is using nanotechnology to directly mimic cells found in the eye. Massoud Khraiche and colleagues engineered an implant of silicon nanowires that mirror the form, distribution, and function of natural photoreceptors. Uniquely, this approach combines both light detection and neuron stimulation in a single material, with no need for additional photosensors or a camera to capture light.

“Nanowires are perfect for eyes,” says Khraiche. “They capture light well and are tiny.” He presented details on the device at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in October. The team is currently testing it in rabbits.

“Nanotech implants hold a lot of promise for future applications,” says Kelly, who is not involved with either group, “but they have to be designed carefully.” For one thing, he says, there are safety concerns about applying nanomaterials directly to the retina, and there will need to be ongoing studies about how long a nanotech-derived device can safely survive inside the body.

9 Tech Trends That Will Make Someone Billions Of Dollars Next Year

via Business Insider: 


2013 will soon be upon us. 

Most of us can see that 2012’s four big trends will get bigger next year: mobile, social, cloud, and big data.

Market-research company IDC has gone one further, predicting how these trends will unfold next year—to the tune of billions of dollars.


The world will spend a whopping $2.1 trillion on tech in 2013

Companies are ready to upgrade to all the latest new tech. And consumers are opening up their wallets for smartphones, tablets and apps.

All told, IT spending will be up almost 6%.

Tech will grow insanely fast in emerging countries

The need for tech in overseas emerging markets will really kick into gear.

Geographic areas like Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, and the Middle East will spend $730 billion on IT, up almost 9%. One-third of the customers that IT vendors have will come from these areas.

2013 will be a make-it-or-break-it year in mobile for some vendors

2013 will be a make-it-or-break-it year in mobile for some vendors

Steve Kovach, Business Insider

When it come to mobile, 2013 will bring us these three things:

  • Mini tablets with screens less than 8 inches in size will be the rage, accounting for 60% of tablets sold.
  • The market for smartphones and tablets combined will grow by 20%.
  • 2013 will be a make-or-break year for mobile platforms. Those that don’t attract interest from at least 50% of app developers won’t survive. Google and Apple are past that threshold. Microsoft now sits at 33%. RIM is at 9%.

Big IT companies will feast on smaller cloud players

Big IT companies will feast on smaller cloud players

The software-as-a-service phenomenon really grew up in the past 12 months, with big vendors like Oracle and SAP spending billions to buy their way into the market.

IDC thinks we haven’t seen anything yet.

“There will be over $25 billion in SaaS acquisitions over the next 20 months, up from $17 billion in the past 20 months,” it says.

Some companies are too highly valued to make for easy acquisitions, like the publicly traded, worth $22 billion, or the fast-growing, still-private Box at $1.2 billion. But a bunch of others could be ripe for deals: Okta, Zenoss, and ServiceMax come to mind.

A lot of smaller, specialized clouds will sprout up

A lot of smaller, specialized clouds will sprout up

In 2012, a lot of new cloud tech came out that made it easier and more affordable for anyone to build a cloud.

That means that in 2013, a whole bunch of new clouds will crop up. These will serve specific industries, for instance hospitals, construction companies, banks.

Everyone will become an IT person

People who don’t work as IT professionals have taken over the job of buying tech for the company: their own mobile devices, file-sharing clouds, and social apps.

Some people call this the Dropbox effect. Companies like Box, Asana, and Yammer built their business models on it.

IDC says that in 2013, that business model will pay off and non-IT business managers will buy 80% of new tech directly for their teams.

Big data will get bigger

Just like 2012 was the year that mobile devices and cloud computing became the must-have things for every company, big data will be the thing everyone will use in 2013.

IDC says the big-data market will grow at an annual rate of 40%. It will hit about $5 billion in 2012, $10 billion by 2013, and $53 billion by 2017.

The data center as we know it is over

The data center as we know it is over

Meet Yellowstone, the super hero supercomputing fighting climate change


New data-center technologies that took root in 2012 will become the big thing in 2013.

These include “converged systems,” where companies buy machines that have computation, storage, networking, and software bundled together.

Another is software-defined networks, which is a new way to build networks.

These represent a tremendous opportunity for the established players like Cisco, Dell, HP, and Oracle. But they are also a big risk if they get it wrong. A whole class of startups are rising up to disrupt these guys.

Your work computer will be an ID you keep in your head

Your work computer will be an ID you keep in your head


The bring-your-own-device trend, also known as BYOD, will morph into BYID—bring-your-own-ID.

That is, your work computer will be available to you anywhere, on any device. All you have to do is properly log in.

This is the ultimate result of investments in new cloud, mobile, and data-center technologies.


Happy 20th birthday to the Text Message!

via Tech Digest: 


Happy 20th birthday, Text Messages! 20 years ago today on 3 December 1992, the first ever text message was sent, kickstarting a communication revolution that gave way to its own condensed form of “TXT Speak” language and a few years down the line, internet phenomenon Twitter.

22-year-old British engineer Neil Papworth sent the first ever text message, using his computer to send the message “Merry Christmas” to an Orbitel 901 mobile phone.

And, as of 2011, more than 150 billion text messages are sent in the UK alone each year, tripling since 2006’s 51 billion messages. That’s an average of roughly 50 text messages per week, per mobile phone user.

To that end, text messages are now recognised as the most popular way of communicating with pals, with Ofcom’s Communications Market Report for 2012 revealing 90% of 16-24 year-olds texting on a daily basis. By comparison, phone calls are far less popular among younger folk, with 67% making mobile phone calls on a daily basis, and only 63% meeting up for a regular face-to-face chat.

However, internet-based messaging services are soon expected to eclipse standard SMS messaging services, with the rise of IM clients click Facebook Message, iMessage and BBM growing in popularity as smartphone sales surge.

Bread that lasts for 60 days could cut food waste

via BBC:


An American company has developed a technique that it says can make bread stay mould-free for 60 days.

The bread is zapped in a sophisticated microwave array which kills the spores that cause the problem.

The company claims it could significantly reduce the amount of wasted bread – in the UK alone, almost a third of loaves purchased.

The technique can also be used with a wide range of foods including fresh turkey and many fruits and vegetables.

World of waste

Food waste is a massive problem in most developed countries. In the US, figures released this year suggest that the average American family throws away 40% of the food they purchase – which adds up to $165bn (£102bn) annually.

Bread is a major culprit, with 32% of loaves purchased in the UK thrown out as waste when they could be eaten, according to figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Machine microwaveThe machine uses similar technology to a home microwave

One of the biggest threats to bread is mould. As loaves are usually wrapped in plastic, any water in the bread that evaporates from within is trapped and makes the surface moist. This provides excellent growing conditions forRhizopus stolonifer, the fungus that leads to mould.

In normal conditions, bread will go mouldy in around 10 days.

But an American company called Microzap says it has developed a technique that will keep the bread mould free for two months.

At its laboratory on the campus of Texas Tech University in Lubbock, chief executive Don Stull showed off the long, metallic microwave device that resembles an industrial production line. Originally designed to kill bacteria such as MRSA and salmonella, the researchers discovered it could kill the mould spores in bread in around 10 seconds.

“We treated a slice of bread in the device, we then checked the mould that was in that bread over time against a control, ” he explained.

“And at 60 days it had the same mould content as it had when it came out of the oven.”

Question of taste

The machine the team has built uses much the same technology as found in commercial microwaves – but with some important differences, according to Mr Stull.

“We introduce the microwave frequencies in different ways, through a slotted radiator. We get a basically homogeneous signal density in our chamber – in other words, we don’t get the hot and cold spots you get in your home microwave.”

20th-Century history of bread

Bread making competition 1965
  • 1928: First bread slicing machine, invented by Otto Rohwedder, exhibited in US
  • 1930: Large UK bakeries take commercial slicers and sliced bread first appears in shops
  • 1933: About 80% of US bread is pre-sliced and wrapped, and the phrase “the best thing since sliced bread” is coined
  • 1941: Calcium added to UK flour to prevent rickets
  • 1942: The national loaf – much like today’s brown loaf – introduced to combat shortage of white flour
  • 1954: Conditions in bakeries regulated by the Night Baking Act
  • 1956: National loaf abolished
  • 1961: The Chorleywood Bread Process introduced

Source: The Federation of Bakers

The company’s device has attracted plenty of interest from bread manufacturers – but it is worried that it could push up costs in an industry where margins are very tight.

And there is also a concern that consumers might not take to bread that lasts for so long. Mr Stull acknowledges it might be difficult to convince some people of the benefits.

“We’ll have to get some consumer acceptance of that,” he said. “Most people do it by feel and if you still have that quality feel they probably will accept it. ”

Mr Stull believes that the technology could impact bread in other ways. He said that bread manufacturers added lots of preservatives to try and fight mould, but then must add extra chemicals to mask the taste of the preservatives. If bakers were able to use the microwave technology, they would be able to avoid these additives.

While a wholesale change in the bread industry might be difficult to achieve, there may be more potential with other foods, including ground turkey.

In 2011, food giant Cargill had to recall 16 million kg of the product after a salmonella outbreak. Mr Stull believes that using microwaves would be an effective way of treating this and several other products ranging from jalapenos to pet foods.

The only fruit that his device was unable to treat effectively were cantaloupes.

“We’ve used our tumbler machine to treat them, he says “but you can’t tumble cantaloupes because they damage.”

Portable and Affordable: New 3-D Printers That Cost Less Than $500

via Wired: 


It’s been easy to overlook some of the innovations coming out of the RepRap community as of late.

Between regular MakerBot releases and announcements for new types of printers like the B9 Creator and Form 1, as well as a steady stream of big company announcements, the system that helped launch the home 3-D printer market has been a bit overshadowed. A couple new machines deserve attention though, offering unique features that the more mainstream devices don’t have.

One of those printers is the $699 Portabee ($480 unassembled), based on the RepRap Wallace, which brings low cost and portability to the 3-D printing market.

Overall, the specs are what you would expect in a low-cost machine. A 120x120x120 mm (4.75 inches) build volume makes it competitive with other printers in its price class, but is still less than half the volume of the new MakerBot Replicator 2. The heated build platform helps prevent model warping during print jobs, but the bare-bones case design also increases the chance of accidental burns and damage during transport. The Portabee uses 3 mm filament and a 0.5 mm extruder nozzle — both good specs, but moving toward obsolescence with higher-resolution 1.75 mm filament and 0.4 mm nozzles becoming more widespread.

Don’t call it the iPrint Air, but Portabee is aiming for a super-portable design. Photo: Portabee

While the Portabee might not lead the market in most categories, it is definitely among the most portable. Daniel Warner, one of the project creators, says, “Just a simple thing like taking it to your friends place to demonstrate an actual 3-D print is really convenient. During the engineering phase we did have the option of producing another big, lumbering 3-D printer, but we grew more attached to the concept of portability and minimalism as we progressed.” Their goal was achieved — not only does the machine weigh in at a paltry 6.2 pounds, it also folds down flat.

Another option for the budget- and space-constrained comes from PrintrBot. The $399 PrintrBot Jr is a kit-based system that has been stripped down to the bare minimum — it only prints PLA plastics and has a plywood build platform, but is an accessible option for children.

The case might be a bit rustic for James Bond, but the 3-D printer inside is Q-worthy. Photo: PrintrBot

The $1,499 PrintrBot Go has more impressive base specs — 200x185x150 mm build area (339 cubic inches compared to 410 cubic inches for the MakerBot Replicator 2). The base unit is limited to 3 mm PLA filament, but can print ABS with an upgrade to a Printrbot heated bed. What really sets this printer apart is its integrated “spy-worthy” attaché case.

Both solutions lack the polish of the FoldaRap, but stand apart from that machine by being available in kit or fully assembled form, not just a list of parts to be purchased.

If you’re looking for a lightweight way to get started with 3-D printing but don’t want to drop $2,000 on a Makerbot, these might be just what you need.