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Accelerate: August 2013

MakerBot (MakerBot.com), which was recently acquired by Stratasys (stratasys.com) in a deal valued at $600-million, is going even more into the consumer mainstream with a new collaboration with Microsoft (microsoft.com). 

Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 houses a new 3D printing pipeline that includes a driver created by MakerBot for its Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printer. The fourth-generation machine, which has a 410-in3 build volume and 100-micron layer resolution, is geared toward the professional as well as consumer markets, and is priced around $2,200.

MakerBot and Microsoft also have penned a reseller agreement to stock the MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printer in certain Microsoft retail stores and online at www,microsoftstore.com

“Our goal to is to make the experience of 3D printing as easy as creating and printing a document using Microsoft Word,” said Shanen Boettcher, general manager, Startup Business Group, Microsoft. “We want to empower more people to create and make things, and working with Microsoft helps our mission,” said Bre Pettis, CEO of MakerBot. 

MakerBot will continue to sell its brand of printers as a separate subsidiary of Stratasys when the deal is completed by the end of the third quarter 2013.

Sand, Hair and Microbatteries 

A single strand of hair and grain of sand; two small physical objects that nanotechnology scientists and journalists find especially useful as benchmarks for describing small things. Those infinitesimal terms, however, are rarely used to describe batteries. 

Research teams at Harvard University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have used 3D printing to create lithium-ion microbatteries “the size of a grain of sand” with printed interlaced stacks of battery electrodes, each the “width of a human hair.” 

The aim is to improve on thin-film solid-state micro-batteries, the go-to solution for tiny electronics devices, power sources that come with significant power and charging limitations.

The researchers developed both a custom-made 3D printer as well as extrusion-based and quickly hardening inks. The ink for the battery’s anode was constructed with nanoparticles of a lithium metal oxide compound, while a second ink made from nanoparticles of another compound created the cathode. The printer deposited the inks onto the teeth of two gold combs, creating a tightly interlaced stack of anodes and cathodes. Then the researchers packaged the electrodes into a tiny container and filled it with an electrolyte solution to complete the battery.

The electrochemical performance is comparable to com-mercial batteries when it comes to charge and discharge rate, cycle life, and energy density, the researchers say. 

The technology was developed by Jennifer A. Lewis, senior author of the study who also is the Hansjörg Wyss professor of Biologically Inspired Engineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), and a core faculty member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. Lewis led the project in her previous position at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, with co-author Shen Dillon, an assistant professor of Materials Science and Engineering.

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