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Awesome tech you can’t buy yet: Crazy fast 3D printers, ultraportable bikes

At any given moment there are approximately a zillion different crowdfunding campaigns happening on the Web. Take a stroll through Kickstarter or Indiegogo and you’ll find no shortage of weird, useless, and downright stupid projects out there – alongside some real gems. We’ve cut through the Pebble clones and janky iPhone cases to round up the most unusual, ambitious, and exciting projects out there this week. Keep in mind that any crowdfunded project — even the best intentioned — can fail, so do your homework before cutting a check for the gadget of your dreams.

NX1 — Outrageously fast 3D printer

Traditional 3D printers — the kind that squirt plastic through a nozzle and create objects layer by layer — have come a long way in the past few years. They’re miles ahead of what they used to be — but they’ve also started to hit an upper limit in terms of speed. You can only extrude so fast, and even the quickest FDM printers still take hours to pump out relatively small parts, so forward-thinking inventors have begun developing new techniques and technologies that allow for faster printing. Now, after years of painstaking development, the NX1 is here to give the 3D printing world a speed boost.

Instead of melting plastic to create objects layer by layer, the NX1 uses a laser projection system to “grow” objects out of a pool of UV-curable resin — but it’s different than your average SLA or DLP printer. Unlike conventional bottom-up 3D printing systems, the NX1 interposes a transparent self-lubricating film between the bottom of the resin tank, the photo-curing resin, and the light source. By gradually releasing a layer of oil, the printer enables the finished resin to solidify while suspended on the substrate. This basically removes the need to create objects layer by layer, and allows the process to be continuous — resulting in print speeds as high as one centimeter per minute. That’s insane.

HomeBiogas — User-friendly biodigester

It sounds crazy, but believe it or not, somewhere around 40 percent of all the food produced in the U.S. is tossed out. We put all kinds of time and energy into producing it, but we still end up throwing 40 percent of it away and sending it off to a landfill. It’s incredibly wasteful — but HomeBiogas has developed something to help. For the past few years, the company has developed an incredibly simple biodigester that takes raw food waste (and a whole lot more) and transforms it into usable cooking gas and fertilizer.

Here’s how it works: You start by feeding food into the machine’s digestion chamber. This can be pretty much anything biodegradeable — dining room scraps, meat, grease, oil, egg shells, bones, paper products, grass clippings, and even small sticks or bits of wood. After that, you introduce some special bacteria into the chamber and mix everything up. Once that’s done, you just let the bacteria do its thing. These little buggers will gobble up all the organic material and fart out methane gas, which the HomeBiogas unit will collect and store. When you’ve built up enough gas, you can hook the tank up to a cooktop burner. Pretty nifty!

Read more here.

Fleks3D — Flexible 3D printing build plate

3D printing has come a long way in the past few years, and many of the technology’s biggest problems have now been solved, but despite how far 3D printers have come, many still suffer from one big drawback: the fact that prints are a pain in the ass to break loose from the build plate. Depending on the shape of your print, detaching it from the build plate can be quite an ordeal, oftentimes requiring a wide variety of wedge tools just to set it loose. It’s such a common annoyance that covering your build plate in blue painters tape for easier removal has basically become a standard practice.

Fleks3D aims to fix this problem. It’s basically a flexible build plate designed to expedite the removal process. When your part is done printing, you simply remove the Fleks3D plate and bend it. So long as the object you printed is reasonably stiff, it’ll break free from the build plate in a hurry — no tools required. As an added bonus, the plate is also designed with a slightly roughened texture, which aids adhesion during the printing process and helps you avoid errors on the first few layers.

Hummingbird — Ultraportable bicycle

Designers have been trying to perfect the “folding bicycle” for ages at this point, but for all the crazy compact designs that they’ve dreamt up, most portable bikes are still fairly heavy. Many of them make up for small, structurally weak frame designs by using thicker, more robust materials. Even the most advanced folding bikes out there are basically trading size and foldability for weight — but Hummingbird is different. Thanks to some amazing engineering, the entire bike weighs just over 6.5 kilograms — or about 14.3 pounds. That’s lighter than even the most tricked-out racing bike.

The key to the Hummingbird’s minuscule weight is it’s painstakingly designed carbon fiber frame. In case you’re not aware, carbon fiber is five times stronger than steel, twice as stiff, and one third its weight. It’s also lighter than aluminum and stiffer than titanium. It even absorbs the vibrations, which makes for a smoother ride on your bike. Pair this wonder material with a super minimal internal structure, and you’ve got yourself a ridiculously lightweight bike.

Formcard — Malleable plastic repair tool

Have you ever heard of this stuff called Sugru? It might just be the greatest invention of the 21st century. When you take it out of the package, it’s soft and malleable like play-doh, allowing you to mold it into practically any shape you need. Over night, it solidifies into hard rubber — making it ideal for fixing broken things, sealing leaks, and building stuff. It comes in handy more often than duct tape, and has a nearly endless list of potential uses — but the thing is, it’s not always on hand when you need it.

That’s where Formcard comes in. It’s based on a similar idea, but is designed to be carried with you at all times, rather than tucked away in a drawer or toolbox. Unlike Sugru, which is packed into a chubby airtight package, Formcard is designed to slip into your wallet, and features dimensions similar to a credit card. When it comes time to use the card, you submerge it in some hot water until it becomes soft and malleable, then take it out and reform it into the shape you need. After a few minutes at room temperature, it’ll return to a solid state and retain the new shape until heated again.

Drew Prindle
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Drew Prindle is an award-winning writer, editor, and storyteller who currently serves as Senior Features Editor for Digital…
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