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The 3D printer that fits into a suitcase

The 3D printer that fits into a suitcase

Posting in Design

Print anything, anywhere.

A pair of MIT mechanical engineering students have developed a 3D printer which certainly goes by the name of portable -- fitting neatly into a standard metal suitcase.

The era of 3D printing has firmly launched -- in its latest developments, being used to turn homes into drugstores, creating weapons and even being used to mold 3D replicas of your fetus --  but it's not just about a printer's uses, but also its features.

Most 3D printers are bulky, brick-like and the average size of a kitchen table. However, as technology evolves -- consider the mobile phone as an example -- the components required to maintain performance can be made smaller and more lightweight. That's where portability comes in.

PopFab, designed by MIT students Ilan Moyer and Nadya Peek of CADLab and the Centre for Bits and Atoms respectively, can be set up within moments. The pair claim that the 3D printer has traveled the world "as a carry-on item of luggage", and its locations include Saudi Arabia, Germany, and various parts of the United States.

Described as a multi-tool, perhaps the Swiss Army knife of 3D printers, the video below shows the two students setting up PopFab bit by bit, and is part of a series that will show off the mobile 3D printer's capabilities.

In just a few moments, the students assembled the printer through attaching the printing head to a fold-out arm. Next, they placed the printing material and connected a computer which is used to relay the design to the machine.

In the video, the printer is used to create a small, three dimensional fish. However, the portable design could potentially be used to perform different functions -- change the toolhead, switch the service. For example, the team believe it could also be used to cut vinyl, perform milling or draw programmed designs.

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Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure