Printer in Your Pocket

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While the future may be shaped by self-driving cars and robot servants, there’s also another technological leap that cannot be overlooked. 3D printing allows people to create their own objects and bring them to the world, and is already shaping the way we live our lives. Everything from toys to affordable prosthetics are being made from the comfort of our homes, and 3D printing is sure to become a staple of manufacturing in the future.

One of the more exciting developments of 3D printing is that it is becoming more and more affordable for the consumer. Enter Olo. Olo is a 3D printer with a unique spin; it uses your smartphone to help it create. The Olo system produces actual, three-dimensional products, and all at a low price of $99 to its backers, though the retail price will be closer to around $450, according to Computerworld. Popularly known as Olo, the product recently went through a name change to Ono in order to avoid trademark infringement. However, Olo is still the name used on the product’s official Kickstarter page.

Olo was developed by Italian production company Solido3D, which focuses on 3D printing technology. Seeking to make both a quality and economical printer, the company went to Kickstarter to source backers. The project raised $2.3 million in March of 2016, and is set to ship out its first wave of printers in October.

The technology Olo uses is pretty amazing. It combines the innovation of a traditional printer with the usefulness of a smartphone. Solido3D boasts that the hardware and software for Olo is easy to use. Though 3D printing has been barred from general use because of the technical skill to use it, the peripheral Olo uses is simple and easy to use.

The mechanical part of Olo is about the size of a pint of milk, and consists of a catch for the resin that is used to make models, a base to store your phone while it prints, and the build plate and electronics. The phone goes into the bottom of the device and faces upwards. The printer runs on four AA batteries, and Solido3D stresses that the process is silent.

Most printers use ultraviolet light to turn liquid plastic into models. Olo uses visible light. The light from your smartphone, to be specific. By placing the device on top of your smartphone, the printer utilizes the light given off to make 3D models. Hooking up the printer to a phone requires a jack, so it will be compatible with most models. iPhone 7 users may find themselves at a loss, but Solido3D is looking into solutions.

On the software side of things, Olo comes with a companion app for your phone to help design different molds to create. The software allows users to pick from a preset list of 3D models, as well as using 3D scan software to create new images to build. The app also allows users to share their 3D models.

Olo is a step towards the popular use of 3D printing. What effect it will have is still yet to be seen, but the simple fact that 3D printing is becoming more accessible is a good sign for the development of the technology.