CES 2015: 3D Systems brings 3D printing to wearables, Oculus Rift, and chocolate

For 3D Systems, 3D printing was an overnight success about 30 years in the making. And in 2014, the technology -- and the hype -- finally caught up with them, according to CEO Avi Reichental.

At 3D Systems' CES 2015 press conference at the MGM Grand, Reichental proclaimed that 2015 is the year when 3D printing will become mainstream and available in almost every home. That's why the theme of 3D Systems' press conference on Tuesday was "the home of now" and took place in an MGM hospitality suite equipped with food, fashion, and fun stuff -- all 3D printed.

The company showed off its recently announced 3D printers, like the CocoJet, a chocolate printer, in partnership with Hershey's, and the Ekocycle, a printer that uses post-consumer recycled plastic filament, which is a product in partnership with will.i.am and Coca-Cola. They also spotlighted the new Touch Haptic 3D Stylus and OpenHaptics SDK system, which works with Oculus Rift to create a virtual sculpting software tool to transform 3D modeling -- one of the biggest hurdles to bringing 3D printing mainstream -- to a simple, game-like experience for everyone.

"[We've been] saying for years it's shaping everything we do, but in reality it's not getting to a point that touches every aspect of our lives," Reichental said.

This year, he wants to change that. 3D Systems' suite was set up like a futuristic home, showcasing ways 3D printing can already integrate into every aspect of life. Fashion was a huge part of the theme -- accessories like earrings, necklaces, bags, and shoes were printed with brightly colored plastics, and clothes were adorned with 3D printed designs.

Reichental also wants 3D printing to make wearables more attractive, customizable, and mainstream. He showed off his own fashionable metal watch band that was 3D printed for his smartwatch.

"Hybridization is an important part of democratization," he said. "We can use it in terms of digital craftsmanship and unleash new degrees of creativity."

Because our world is more globalized and connected, makers can easily collaborate and innovate to make 3D printing popular and provide a new outlet for artists, he added. Along with that, the "perfect storm of technologies" is making all of it possible.

For kitchen use, 3D Systems promoted their Chefjet and Cocojet food printers. The Chefjet is becoming popular among pastry chefs and cake decorators, for instance, because it allows them freedom and creativity to print all types of candies and elaborate cake toppers. The company is also partnering with the Culinary Institute of America to bring 3D printing and artisan culinary methods together by creating new types of recipes.

Outdoors, 3D Systems showed off all types of uses for the technology -- from customized skateboards, to printed ping pong paddles and balls, to remote-controlled cars. Some of the pieces were printed using the Ekocycle, which used PET plastic made from recycled Coca-Cola bottles.

3D Systems has always had a strong hold in the professional printer market, but the company also has several home 3D printer models, including the CubePro, which prints in ALS, PLA, and nylon, priced at $2799; and the Cube3, the $999 desktop 3D printer that was released in early 2014, which was the big talk of CES last year. The company also recently acquired London-based BotObjects, a 3D printing startup, which Reichental said will help them bring to market a 3D printer that uses full-color CMYK filament.

3D Systems' chief creative officer will.i.am attended the conference via a telepresence robot. At CES 2014, he said, he saw everyone getting excited about the future of 3D printing. But this year, it's about harnessing the capabilities of today's technology.

"Instead of thinking abou the future, this makes you see what's happening right now," he said.

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