A remarkable new device called OLO will allow users to turn their smartphones into 3D printers — for only $99.
The device is compact and weighs less than two pounds. This portability — as well as OLO’s cheap price tag — is achieved in no small part due to the fact that half the hardware the system requires is being supplied by the user via smartphone.
A key element of OLO is the resin the device uses to create prints. The company calls it “daylight resin,” and it’s completely new — designed specifically to react to the type of light emitted by smartphone touchscreens.
To use OLO, you simply download the app and select the design you want to create. You can pick from OLO’s library, select an image from the Internet, or even scan in an item from the camera on your phone.
Once your design is entered, you place your phone, face-up, beneath OLO’s base. This base is actually polarized glass, and the reservoir fits right on top of it. Fill the reservoir with resin, fit the motorized top half of OLO into place, and sit back.
The touchscreen light displays the selected pattern and the polarized glass redirects the light upward, focusing it into the heat that cures the resin as the design is created, layer by layer.
As for the special “daylight resin,” it comes in all sorts of colors and finishes. But it’s even more versatile than that. As Stanley Goodner of Gizmag explained: “Users have the option to create designs that are hard, flexible, fusable, flexy, or elastic, mimicking familiar substances of PMMA, ABS, hard wax, soft PVC, and silicon.”
Goodner notes the downsides of OLO as well. There are obvious limitations on the size of the designs created, and there be could resolution issues as well. But overall, he concludes that: “the beauty is in the sheer simplicity and accessibility. Anyone, whether novice or pro, with a smartphone can make and print 3D anytime, anywhere.”
This seems to be the type of reaction the team behind the OLO technology was going for, as Pietro Gabriele, co-founder of OLO, toldNewsweek:
“We wanted to make 3D printing accessible for everyone. To do this we had to get rid of the two main barriers preventing people from accessing 3D printing technology: the cost of the hardware involved and the skills needed to operate it. OLO requires no technical skills and costs less than $100.”
But it’s precisely this type of “accessibility” and “portability” that has those in certain circles concerned. While the applications of 3D printing present boundless opportunities for the future — some have referred to a coming industrial revolution — some in power fearwhat could happen if this type of tech were in the hands of ordinary citizens.
In any case, 3D printing technology is on the rise — as is the market for its applications. As the Economist wrote back in 2011:
“Just as nobody could have predicted the impact of the steam engine in 1750 — or the printing press in 1450, or the transistor in 1950 — it is impossible to foresee the long-term impact of 3D printing. But the technology is coming, and it is likely to disrupt every field it touches.
The following video offers a brief demonstration of the inner workings of the OLO 3D printer. A more complete demonstration can be found here.