SFU grad launches Vancouver’s first affordable 3D printer

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CMYK-3D PRINTERLego pieces, forks, guns, medical models, and makeup; with capabilities to create everyday items, 3D printers are poised to disrupt mass production and the manufacturing sector as a whole.

Leading the charge is SFU graduate Eugene Suyu, who recently put Vancouver on the map with the launch of his company, Tinkerine, and its revolutionary printer DittoPro. The DittoPro is a prosumer-level 3D printer that, according to Suyu, is meant to “sit in your office or home and not look like it’s out of place.” Suyu graduated two years ago from the SIAT program, where he encountered his first 3D printer in an industrial design course.

“Once you use a 3D printer [as an industrial designer], a lot of thoughts go through your head. It opens up the doors in terms of what you can create,” said Suyu, who decided to create a 3D printer geared toward individuals after being unable to find one on the market.

3D printing decentralizes the manufacturing process by allowing the average person to print an entire object in their own home by uploading a digital image to the machine. The range of objects that can be created is limited only by each machine’s size, and the types of materials it can handle.

Most 3D printers use a variation of plastic, although recently a Harvard student launched a printer that is able to create powdered eyeshadows and lipsticks through a process that is more similar to that of an inkjet printer. Tinkerine elected to use PLA, a biodegradable corn-sugar substrate, as the input version of the plastic; “[It] makes the room smell like a candy shop,” Suyu said.

While Tinkerine does not have facilities on-site to handle material recycling, they do manufacture most of their machines in-house. Despite using local labour, DittoPro’s price is about 30 per cent lower than a comparable model on the market right now. Suyu said that producing locally allowed for greater quality control and reliability of the machines.

SFU acquired its first 3D printers at upwards of $15,000 whereas the DittoPro costs just $1,999 — although the two models can print about the same size and resolution. However, it would take SFU’s printers up to two to three times longer than the DittoPro to print the exact same object. But back in 2007, when SFU purchased its printers, the slower model was the baseline for affordability and productivity.

Despite the political, social, and economic implications of a technology that can decentralize power and production, Suyu is more focused on the technical aspects of 3D printing — he sees the socio-political controversies as a “side effect” of what he is doing, rather than the driving force.

SFU has yet to place an order for the new DittoPros, which are set to ship in May, but Suyu is optimistic that there could be cross-collaboration between industrial design courses and Tinkerine’s education initiatives.

 

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