Turn your smartphone into a 3D printer for $99

OLO 3D Printer
The OLO 3D printer uses the light from your smartphone display to harden resin in a cube-shaped box. The printer is essentially a stereolithography printer. Credit: OLO 3D Inc.

This 3D printer uses any iOS, Android or Windows smartphone

A new 3D printer that uses light from a smartphone display to create objects has already garnered more than $800,000 four days into a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign.

The stereolithography 3D printing system from OLO 3D Inc. works with any smartphone with a display of up to 5.8 in., including the iPhone 6S and the Galaxy A7. The system is housed in a three-piece cube; the phone rests in the base and a two-piece upper component sits on top.

When activated, OLO's smartphone app turns any 3D design on the phone's screen into a physical object using bright light that hardens resin in the cube above the phone.

The OLO app also allows users to send printable images to other OLO app users for them to print.

olo 3d app edited 1 OLO 3D Inc.
The OLO 3D printer app.

If you choose not to use an existing library of images, you can also use any 3D scan software, including Autodesk 123D Catch, to create images on your smartphone to build a 3D object; that includes photographs.

Multiple objects can be built at the same time. As with any 3D printer, the amount of time required to create an object can be substantial (though OLO's offering appears to be slower than most desktop 3D printers). For example, it can take up to three hours to build a 2-in. diameter ball.

Currently, OLO is offering its 3D printer to early buyers for $99. Once it's available for retail sale in October, that price is set to jump to $450 in the U.S.

OLO uses small bottles of a photopolymer resin, just like the resin used in a stereolithography printer. Once an object is printed, you just wash it off under water. Like other stereolighography 3D printers, which use a pinpointed light source to harden photopolymer resin, the OLO 3D printer has a remarkably fine resolution, printing layers up to 0.036 millimeters in height (0.12mm in "quick-mode").

OLO's resin comes in eight colors and is currently sold in packs of four that can be purchased with a $79 Kickstarter pledge. There are four resin types that can be used to create hard objects or rubbery ones, or even durable molds for casting objects with molten metals.

OLO 3D printer resin OLO 3D Inc.

OLO's photopolymer resins come in eight colors.

"We have been hard at work for two years perfecting the case, reinventing mechanics, re-engineering microchips, and discovering a completely new line of materials called Daylight Resins," OLO's development team states in its marketing material.

The OLO 3D printer, which runs on four AA batteries, is silent, weighs 1.7 lb. and is 6.8 in. x 4.5 in. x 5.8 in. It has a 3-x-5-x-2-in. area in which you can build objects.

To use the OLO 3D printer, simply select an object on your smartphone (iOS, Android or Windows), either from OLO's library of images or from any other 3D object site. Then, place your phone into the rectangular opening in a base unit that protects the phone from the larger cube set on top of it.

OLO 3D printer OLO 3D Inc.

The OLO 3D printer cube being set atop a smartphone.

The upper cube is composed of two pieces. Separate the pieces and pour the resin into the bottom half of the cube, then put the upper half back on top. Then set the whole cube on top of you smartphone, with the OLO 3D printer app running. As the virtual object on your smartphone's screen is highlighted in light over and over, it hardens areas of the resin in the cube, creating an object as an internal small platform lifts it up and out of the resin pool -- just like any desktop stereolithography 3D printer.

According to the company, "OLO's building chamber was designed to prevent light penetration in order to maximize the effectiveness of the white light emission from your smartphone's display."

OLO 3D printer OLO 3D Inc.

The OLO 3D printer creating a perforated ball.

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