3D Printing Goes Mobile (Kinda)

Tinkerine Ditto Pro

Yesterday I sat in for Howard at a demo of the Ditto Pro 3D Printer by its makers, a Vancouver-based company called Tinkerine. Over the course of my half-hour session the printer, maybe a little wider than a large coffee maker, chugged away in the background, slowly but surely squeezing out tiny layers of filament in what would eventually become a souvenir that I could take home—a replacement knob for a stove top.

If that sounds a tad unimpressive, it shouldn’t. This piece was made in less than half an hour using a spool of biodegradable corn starch, on a machine that retails for less than $2,000 USD. And you can use it with your phone.

It’s true, if you’ve an iPhone or iPad, there’s an app for that. It’s from Autodesk, and is called 123D Catch. Here’s a quick video from their site:

And if you don’t use iOS you can still use the desktop or cloud version of 123D Catch to model real-world objects using photos from any camera. Tinkerine’s Todd Blatt used Google Glass to print a 3D bust from a sculpture in a Baltimore museum.

Mind you, it’s not like you can tap a button on your phone and select “share to 3D printer”… In the case of the Ditto Pro you’ll have to import your 123D Catch project into the Tinkerine Suite software on a desktop PC for touch-ups, scaling and so on. That a mobile phone can be a part of this workflow at all is kind of amazing, though!