Print objects from smartphone with new 3D printer

Professor Jeng-Ywan Jeng with his Smart Phone Intelligent 3D printer.
PHOTO: AsiaOne

SINGAPORE - Spotted a nice accessory? Take a photo of it, send it to the 3D printer, and voila! That accessory can be yours.

It sounds easy to use, and it probably is, but the Smart Phone Intelligent 3D printer created by Taiwanese Professor Jeng-Ywan Jeng offers more than that.

The professor from the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, who is in Singapore for Inside 3D Printing conference and exhibition, has created a 3D printer which can be controlled via a smartphone.

"Everybody has a smartphone", Professor Jeng said, giving hints at the potential the printer can offer.

While most people have the perception that 3D printers are typically bulky and costly, Professor Jeng hopes to offer something more consumer-friendly. 

One reason Professor Jung cited for the slow uptake of 3D printers among the masses is its 'intimidation factor'.

"The public don't understand how the software and hardware works," the Professor with 25 years of experience in 3D printing explained.

"Many of today's 3D printers are catered for manufacturers and semi-professionals."

To make it more consumer-friendly, Professor Jeng's Smart Phone Intelligent 3D printer measures just 20cm long and 11cm wide - that is the size of a handheld tablet.

Also, Prof Jeng believes that the printer can be sold for $100, which is very much lower than most other 3D printers in the market.

However, Professor Jeng's product is still a prototype.

Improvements in the pipeline include allowing people to snap and print using their phones.

Currently, the smartphone serves as the brain and conduit for the 3D printer, effectively allowing anyone in possession of a smartphone to operate it.

The smartphone delivers information on the object to the 3D printer from the cloud using an app.

What is novel about the Smart Phone Intelligent 3D Printer is that it uses the light emitted from the smartphone's screen to solidify a special resin. Typical 3D printers use lasers or ultraviolet light to solidify the raw object.

The Smart Phone Intelligent 3D printer can also run on an external power source like a power bank.

As an academic, Professor Jung is not interested in monetisation plans, but he hopes to receive funding from potential investors to improve his device, or a technology transfer to a commercial partner.

"With the funding, I believe the printer can be ready for consumers in a year," Professor Jung shared.