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.

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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.

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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.

US wants to use the Moon as a petrol station

US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross has said that the Trump administration aims to turn the Moon into a petrol station, which will allow for the exploration of deeper parts of the solar system. According to Ross, explorers would use ice from the moon's craters to refuel on the way to other destinations.

SpaceX’s first broadband satellites are now in space

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has confirmed the company's first broadband satellites – named Tintin A and Tintin B – have been deployed and are now "communicating to Earth stations". The satellites are being used to test SpaceX's future Starlink broadband service, which aims to provide gigabit broadband worldwide.

Source: Ars Technica

Nissan to trial self-driving taxis in Japan

Nissan and Japanese tech giant DeNA have announced field tests of Easy Ride, the self-driving taxi service they developed together, will begin on March 5 in Yokohama, Japan. The cars will take passengers along a 4.5km route between the Yokohama World Porters shopping centre and Nissan’s corporate complex.

Source: Tech Crunch

Elon Musk quits AI ethics group

Elon Musk has always been quick to urge caution when it comes to AI, but now he has quit the board of the research group he co-founded to look into the tech's ethics. OpenAI said the decision had been taken to avoid any conflict of interest as Mr Musk's electric car company, Tesla, became "more focused on AI".

Source: BBC

Beef companies file petition against lab-grown meat startups

The US beef industry is fighting back against tech startups who are creating meat in a lab using animal cells. The US Cattlemen’s Association has filed a petition arguing that lab-grown meat startups should not be able to call their products "meat," since they do not come from slaughtered animals.

Millions of dollars in Ethereum are vulnerable to hackers

Researchers claim that having analysed almost one million smart contracts stored on the Ethereum blockchain, 34,200 are "critically vulnerable". A sample of roughly 3,000 vulnerable contracts that the team verified could be exploited to steal roughly $6 million worth of Ether, Ethereum’s in-house cryptocurrency.

Source: Motherboard

Stronger in old age: Stem cell research paves way for muscle-building medication

It could in the future be possible to take medication that will allow you to build muscle, even when you are in old age.

This is due to the findings of research at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, which found that large, and wholly unexpected, amounts of mutations in muscle stem cells blocks their ability to regenerate cells.

“What is most surprising is the high number of mutations. We have seen how a healthy 70-year-old has accumulated more than 1,000 mutations in each stem cell in the muscle, and that these mutations are not random but there are certain regions that are better protected,” said Maria Eriksson, professor at the Department of Biosciences and Nutrition at Karolinska Institutet.

With this knowledge, researchers could develop therapies that would encourage such regeneration, and so allow older people to rebuild lost muscle.

“We can demonstrate that this protection diminishes the older you become, indicating an impairment in the cell’s capacity to repair their DNA. And this is something we should be able to influence with new drugs,” explained Eriksson.

The landmark research, which is published today in the journal Nature Communications, involved the use of single stem cells, which were cultivated to provide enough DNA for whole genome sequencing – a medical first for this part of the body.

“We achieved this in the skeletal muscle tissue, which is absolutely unique. We have also found that there is very little overlap of mutations, despite the cells being located close to each other, representing an extremely complex mutational burden,” said study first author Irene Franco, a postdoc in Eriksson’s research group.

While a significant step, the research is now being expanded to look at whether exercise affects the number of mutations – a potentially vital factor in understand why and how these mutations occur.

“We aim to discover whether it is possible to individually influence the burden of mutations. Our results may be beneficial for the development of exercise programmes, particularly those designed for an ageing population,” said Eriksson.

The research is one of a host of projects being conducted across the world that have potential impacts on ageing, an area that was long ignored by much of the scientific community, but is now garnering increased support.

If many – or even a fair minority – of these findings eventually become the basis of therapeutics, it could be transformative for old age in the future, allowing people to remain healthier for far later in life and potentially even leading to longer life expectancies.