Three-dimensional printing, turning the ethereal into the tangible at the click of a mouse, is the future-tech wizardry of Roddenberry at his best. More formidable than mere replication, the products of 3D printing can be exacted, improved and perfected long before their finalization. While there have been warranted concerns over employing the technology for the inexpensive manufacturing of untraceable gun parts, the positives far outweigh this negative. 3D printing is currently used in the medical field and has aided in the creation of life-saving organs -- Princeton students even recently created a bionic ear.
The benefits for manufacturers are even more readily apparent. The automotive industry is already beginning to lean heavily on this technology for faster field testing and product pipelines. Even NASA has begun work on a zero-gravity unit for use in the International Space Station: to shrink the loads so often required by orbiting astronauts, a 3D printer will be installed to tackle production of uncomplicated replacement parts that, when unavailable, could potentially shutter entire missions. For consumers, meanwhile, the trickle-down effect should prove immeasurable.
MakerBot may be the first name that comes to mind when the topic of 3D printing is bandied about, but that's about to change. While their Replicator series has certainly helped turn musings into something very real, its results are remarkably unrefined. Essentially working in a dot-matrix fashion, the Replicator uses fused deposition modelling to build its products layer by layer with up to 100 microns of definition. The results are cool, but a little rough around the edges.
The Formlabs Form 1 3D Printer, a former Kickstarter project that raised a whopping $2,945,885 (its initial goal: $100,000), uses stereolithography to render seamless results. The Form 1's process, called photopolymerization, employs a high-precision laser that shines onto a metal surface through a tray of resin. As it is raised by the machine's build platform, this resin is solidified by the laser as directed by the original design. During production the Form 1's laser will track thousands of times as a translucent creation rises from its primordial polymer. The piece then cures in a solution of Isopropyl alcohol. Within ten minutes the product is finalized and has a smoothness previously unheard of for 3D printers: resolution layers are as tiny as 25 microns. If MakerBot is color television, Formlabs is 1080p.
The Form 1 is directed by its own software, PreForm, to handle artists' digital inputs. By simply uploading any CAD file and converting it into STL (Stereolithography) format, PreForm helps users to manipulate positioning and orientation to achieve the most fluid modelling and efficient results. Supports added to stabilize creations during the printing and curing process are easily snapped off when fully cured, leaving little to no evidence remaining. Most amazing, though, is that while other Stereolithography printers exist, they are large, complicated and extremely expensive machines. Much like the Makerbot, the Formlabs Form 1 will fit on your desk, and sets buyers back a more reasonable $3,300 (the Makerbot Replicator 2X slots in at a similar $2,800). Roddenberry once said "The glory of creation is in its infinite diversity." With Formlabs' help, he might just be right.
Excellence, innovation, craftsmanship, and an unwavering desire to challenge expectations -- these are the constants that have captivated our attention since Gear Patrol's inception in 2007. This year we're proud to announce the next step in our role as a champion of quality in product design and execution: welcome to the GP100. Our inaugural product awards are dedicated to honoring the 100 best consumer products released during the calendar year by companies of all sizes and scope.
The GP100 is not a ranking or a contest. These selections represent the collective expertise of our entire editorial staff, who have scoured every corner of the vast product universe -- from automotive and electronics, to men's style essentials, home goods, spirits and outdoors -- to find the inspiring and the practical, the ground-breaking and the traditional, the priceless and the accessible. In short: products that define or defy their respective categories to better the life of the modern man.
The GP100 is not a contest influenced by marketers or brands, nor is it a ranking by specifications as determined by uniform tests. Instead, it starts with a comprehensive list of nominees released in the calendar year, researched and compiled by our editorial team of obsessed experts across all of Gear Patrol's major areas of interest including Motoring, Technology, Style, Home, Spirits, Outdoor and Watches. Brands are not part of the selection process. Nominees are then debated in context of the past, present and future of their respective fields. Which selections stand as significant innovations, category busters or faithful monuments to the icons of history? Do they adhere to Gear Patrol's core tenets of excellence, design, utility and the spirit of adventure? Distilled to the following 100 items, the GP100 represents the best products on earth released in 2013 -- easily inspiring consumers and creators alike during their search for guideposts of excellence in a vast world of products.
Motoring Watches Style Technology Sports Outdoors Home Spirits
Jeremy BergerBen Bowers