This could be the brand that finally takes 3D printing to the masses

3D printing has, in many ways, been a smash hit technology. People around the world have used it for everything from prototyping to medical assistance, and there isn’t a day that goes by where we don’t see some clever new use for it.

But when it comes to finding 3D printers in our homes, the story is a little different. Last year, market analysts were warning that the technology could take another 5-10 years to make it into homes, and it is rare to find someone that has such a device outside of businesses.

However, that could change, with the launch of a suite of 3D printers from newcomers XYZprinting.

For one thing, they are a lot cheaper than many rivals, starting at only £299/$349, but have also been designed to be very simple and easy to start using, something many cheaper 3D printers have not prioritised.

xyz-printers-2

At the entry-level end of the range is the da Vinci Jr, which is the first 3D printer we’ve encountered that’s as easy to operate as a microwave.

XYZprinting has done away with the need to calibrate the machine, and even the biodegradable PLA filament self-loads once it has been clicked into place. It’s the kind of device you can see families buying to use with their kids, and would probably make an awesome source of rainy day projects.

Other touches, such as the bright design that is reminiscent of the first iMacs and the cover that prevents tiny hands and dust from getting where it shouldn’t also help to make this highly accessible to non-techy users.

Appealing to the regular person is something a lot of 3D printer brands claim to do, but when you get to the detail, the majority don’t actually follow through.

By contrast, XYZprinting has gone to more effort than some might seem reasonable, providing an array of tutorials on everything from how to unbox the printer to how to work it, alongside a hefty library of free 3D models. There’s even an SD card in the box to transfer the files.

Provided it is well marketed, this device will serve as a kind of litmus test for 3D printing. If it fails to sell, then families really aren’t ready for 3D printers. But we will be surprised if that happens. xyz-printers-3

For those who consider themselves a bit more capable, there are also more complex models, which again have been priced low enough to make other brands a bit concerned.

For £599/$699 you can bag a da Vinci 1.1 Plus, which allows you to browse and print designs directly from the printer, or through a paired app that also lets you check on the progress of your print via a built-in camera, as long as you are on the same network.

The plus also lets you print with PLA, ABS or TPA filament, the latter of which produces flexible objects, making it perfect for jewellery, or – if you fancy – wellies.

The print quality is really very good on both, especially considering the price, which the company says is kept so low because all their r&d and manufacturing is done in-house.

Unlike pretty much every other 3D printing company, XYZ’s parent company has been making regular printers for brands such as HP for years, so they’re not exactly new at this kind of thing.

xyz-printers-1

Finally, the premium model, Nobel 1.1, is the product people looking to do serious printing will want. Unlike a lot of printers it uses a method called stereolithography, which involves forming the print upside down out of liquid resin using a UV laser beam.

This means it can print objects of more-or-less any shape, including with protruding sections at angles the typical layering method cannot achieve. The resulting detail is really impressive, rivalling what you’d get if you paid thousands for a professional print shop’s work.

This model is £1,500 in the UK, but even with the £100/kilo resin added, it works out a lot cheaper than paying someone else to print things for you. Plus when its running the printer itself looks like it’s been borrowed from several decades in the future, which is always a plus in our book.

With all three models launched in the UK later this month, and coming to the US later this year, 2015 really could be the year home printing takes off.

Researchers believe modified CRISPR could be used without editing DNA

Researchers from the US' Salk Institute have used CRISPR as a switch that turns genes on and off and allows harmful mutant genes to be disabled without affecting the structure of their DNA. Until this development gene editing using CRISPR carried the risk of causing unintended effects.

Source: Gizmodo

Nissan to trial robo-taxis in Japan next year

The carmaker Nissan is is partnering with Japanese software company DeNA to test self-driving taxis on Japanese roads from March next year. The free trials will be held over a two-week period in March in Yokohama, and Nissan believes the service could be officially launched in Japan in the early 2020s.

Source: BBC

Apparently, gaming can save your brain

Research participants who played 3D platforming games like the iconic Super Mario 64 had more gray matter in their hippocampus after playing, That part of the brain transforms short-term memories into long-term ones and maintains the spatial memory that helps us navigate the world around us.

Source: Inverse

San Francisco votes to restrict delivery robots

San Francisco officials have voted to restrict where delivery robots can go in the city, amid concerns about the safety of pedestrians, particularly elderly people and children. Start-ups will now have to get permits to use such bots, which will be restricted to less crowded urban areas.

Source: BBC

Steam stops accepting Bitcoin

When Valve first started accepting Bitcoin in April 2016 it was trading around $450 per coin. Today, with Bitcoin surging past $12,000 per coin, Valve has announced that "Steam will no longer support Bitcoin as a payment method on our platform due to high fees and volatility in the value of Bitcoin."

Source: Ars Technica

The maker of Budweiser beer reserves 40 Tesla electric trucks

Budweiser beer maker Anheuser-Busch has reserved 40 Tesla all-electric Semi trucks as it seeks to reduce fuel costs and vehicle emissions. The reservation is one of the largest publicly announced orders Tesla has received, while production of the trucks is scheduled to begin by 2019.

Source: Reuters

The UK government is launching a fintech competition to help renters get on the property ladder

The UK government is offering £2 million to fintech developers who come up with a tool that lets renters record and share their payment data.

The Rent Recognition Challenge, which was first announced as part of the chancellors’ autumn budget, will task developers with finding a way to record payment data from Britain’s 11 million renters in a bid to improve their credit scores and ultimately help them to get a mortgage.

“Most lenders and Credit Reference Agencies are unable to take rental data into account, because they don’t have access to it.

“The Rent Recognition Challenge will challenge firms to develop an innovative solution to this problem and help to restore the dream of home ownership for a new generation,” said the economic secretary to HM Treasury, Stephen Barclay.

Economic secretary to HM Treasury, Stephen Barclay. Image courtesy of Chris McAndrew

The competition will provide an initial round of grant funding to six promising proposals to help turn their ideas into workable products.

A panel of leading figures from the Fintech sector will then whittle the six down to just a handful of teams who will receive further funding and support to bring their ideas to market.

“People’s monthly rent is often their biggest expense, so it makes sense for it to be recognised when applying for a mortgage. Without a good credit score, getting a mortgage can be a real struggle.”

Image courtesy of Jeff Djevdet

The government’s attempt to help more people out of private renting arrangements and into home ownership comes after Scottish Widows published a report that warned tomorrow’s pensioners will have to find huge amounts of money to pay ever-escalating rents to private landlords.

Scottish Widows projected one in eight retirees will be renting by 2032, which works out to three times the number renting today. It also said there is a £43bn gap between the income and savings people have now and what the rent bill will be in retirement.

Speaking to the Guardian, Dan Wilson Craw of campaign group Generation Rent said: “The common perception is that retirees either own their home outright or have a council tenancy, so the government will be in for a nasty shock as more of us retire and continue to rent from a private landlord.

“Many renters relying on pensions will qualify for housing benefit which will put greater strain on the public finances.”

The Rent Recognition Challenge will open to applications early in the New Year, and development will conclude in October 2018.