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The 3-D Printed Universe

Lauren Murrow | February 21, 2014 | Story Fashion

Here, a guide to the most innovate, fashionable, and downright cool objects made with 3-D printers right here in the Bay Area. Check out the slideshow above for even more stunning visuals.

ALARM CLOCKS Stanford and MIT grads Julia Hu and Jeff Zira used TechShop 3-D printers to prototype Lark ($49 at, a silent, vibrating alarm clock wristwatch.

BENCHES  Oakland studio Emerging Objects ( created the Seat Slug, a snaking bench made of 230 pieces of 3-D printed cement polymer.

BIKES  Three years ago, the Aerospace Innovation Center in the United Kingdom presented the Airbike, a two-wheeler made from 3-D printed nylon. Since then, tinkerers on the San Francisco–based DIY website have come up with plans for building your own carbon fiber bike frame, complete with 3-D printed lugs, starting at around $600. (Check out the 3-D printed motorcycle at the Autodesk Gallery, 1 Market St., near Spear St., 2nd floor.)

BUSTS  Using a series of photographs, Autodesk’s 123D software (free at makes it possible to scan, model, and print an eerily lifelike 3-D bust. This version, of our cover model, Venita Collier, was created at Autodesk’s Pier 9 office in a week.

CARS  A 3-D printed model of the Mercedes-Benz Biome car, made from a biological material called BioFibre, is on permanent display at the Autodesk Gallery. Last year, Winnipeg design firm Kor Ecologic ( introduced a 3-D printed car, the Urbee 2. To demonstrate its road-worthiness, developers plan to drive the car from New York to San Francisco in 2015—on just 10 gallons of biofuel.

CENTRIFUGES At the University of San Francisco’s DeRisi Lab, which studies infectious disease, scientists 3-D print lab tools and mini-centrifuges. (The motors are purchased from Radio Shack.)

CHOCOLATE Emerging Objects can print candy—a blend of chocolate and other organic ingredients—in any form desired.

EYEWEAR  Union Square startup Protos uses high-end SLS printers to 3-D print eyewear frames tailored specifically to customers’ facial dimensions (from $299 at

FETUSES  Sunnyvale-based 3D Babies prints creepily realistic figurines in the likeness of your unborn child based on ultrasound images (from $200 at Customers can specify the model’s size, skin tone, body position, and gender.

GUITARS Scott Summit, cofounder of prosthetics company Bespoke Innovations, designed and assembled his own acoustic guitar from 3-D printed plastic, silver, and steel.

GUNS  Dogpatch company Moddler ( makes 3-D printed movie props, including the futuristic resin guns in Men in Black 3 and the body armor for the villain in Wolverine. Moddler’s guns are nonfunctioning, but a 3-D printed gun by Defense Distributed in Austin, Texas, has proved capable of firing a .380 handgun round. Last year, Solid Concepts tested the first 3-D printed metal gun.

HEARING AIDS San Leandro company Soundfit’s ( 3-D scanners create custom-fit ear impressions for hearing aids, as well as tailored earpieces for iPods, phones, and gaming systems.

HEIRLOOMS F3-Inc. ( in Benicia prints high-quality replicas of heirloom jewelry from ABS plastic and polycarbonate.

HUMAN TISSUE Organovo ( harnesses bioprinting technology to make functional human tissues for research purposes. To date, the company is best known for a 3-D printed liver that reproduces the features of native tissue.

IGLOOS Emerging Objects’ Saltygloo, most recently on display at the Museum of Craft and Design, is a 6.5-by-11-foot pavilion constructed from 336 3-D printed panels of San Francisco Bay salt.

JEWELRY  Endswell’s sculptural rings (from $275 at, designed by Andrew Deming and Rachel Gant in Hayes Valley, are 3-D printed on Objet and Perfactory machines, then cast in solid yellow, rose, or white gold.

LAMPS The hive-like Spore lamps by Andrew Kudless of Matsys ( are 3-D fabricated and assembled from cherrywood veneer.

MEAT PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel invested $350,000 in Modern Meadow (, a company developing bioprinted leather and meat. The meat substitute starts with 3-D cellular sheets of pork cells, which are turned into muscle tissue in a bioreactor.

PAPER Emerging Objects 3-D prints paper from pulped recycled newsprint.

PAVILIONS  Matsys, Smith|Allen, and Emerging Objects have created walls, blocks, and screens from 3-D printed concrete, wood, nylon, acrylic, resin, and salt. 3-D printed huts and pavilions have already been constructed here (see “Igloos”). This year, Dutch architect Janjaap Ruijssenaars is expected to unveil the first 3-D printed building, made on a D Shape machine from sand, binding material, and fiber-reinforced concrete.

PHOTOGRAPHS Dreambox, a company working out of UC Berkeley’s Skydeck incubator, is like a three-dimensional Snapfish: It takes a series of photos, then turns the images into a full-color figurine (from $39 at Thus far, couples and kids are popular; one customer printed a 3-D figure of himself holding a sign reading “Will you marry me?” In development: a more advanced 3-D capture system, which will roll out locally this summer.

PROSTHETICS  Bespoke Innovations uses 3-D scanners to superimpose a mirror image of an amputee’s “sound side” leg over his prosthetic leg, creating a one-of-a-kind fairing (from $4,000, Made from chrome plating, leather, and ballistic nylon, the fairings can even be printed with tattoos. British tech firm Fripp Design 3-D prints prosthetic eyes, ears, and noses that are indistinguishable from the real thing.

RECORDS San Francisco Instructables developer Amanda Ghassaei ( discovered how to convert any digital audio file—she opted for Daft Punk’s “Around the World”—into a playable 3-D printed record.

ROBOTS Intel’s 21st Century Robot project, introduced last year at Maker Faire, envisions an open-source platform for 3-D printed robots that will allow anyone to create and share their designs online.

ROCKETS Mountain View space hub DIYRockets ( hosted a competition for open-source, 3-D printed rocket engines last year. Now the company is building a 3-D printed nanosatellite launcher capable of launching small satellites into orbit.

RUNNING SHOES  Nike’s Sports Research Lab partners with Autodesk to evaluate new designs using 3-D visualization software and models. Last spring, New Balance introduced custom 3-D printed spike plates that are generated through in-shoe sensors. In December, designer Shamees Aden prototyped 3-D printed running shoes made of a self-repairing biological material called protocells.

SCULPTURE  Oakland artist Bruce Beasley ( unveiled an exhibit of 3-D printed white plastic sculptures, Coriolis, at the Autodesk Gallery in October.

SMARTPHONE CASES Mission startup UCreate3D produces personalized 3-D printed smartphone cases made of nylon (from $15 at

SPACESHIP PARTS Engineers at NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field are developing an outer space–functional 3-D printer for producing spacecraft parts and tools. The team plans to launch the printers into orbit later this year.

VIRTUAL RUNWAY MODELS At Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Amsterdam last summer, designer Jacob Kok used Autodesk’s 123D Catch app to create digital 3-D versions of his models alongside the live runway show.

VIRUS MODELS Scientists at USF’s DeRisi Lab 3-D print virus models for research purposes. Designers at Moddler created 3-D virus models of influenza, Ebola, and HIV for a story on antiviral drugs in Wired.

WATCHES Wristwatches from local brand 1 Degree Timepieces feature 3-D printed cityscapes circling the clock faces.

WOOD Emerging Objects 3-D prints fiber reinforced wood from recycled hard and soft woods. The layered printing process creates a grain effect that mimics the look of real wood.

Originally published in the March issue of San Francisco

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