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Can the Lix 3D Printing Pen Actually Work? 90

szczys (3402149) writes "Brian Benchoff used science and math to prove that the performance shown in the Lix Kickstarter video is questionable at best. Check his evidence and see if he's done an appropriate job of debunking the functionality presented." From the Hackaday post: "While we know the video is an outright misrepresentation of what any USB 3 powered device can do, We can’t figure out if the Lix is a viable product. We’re turning to you. Can you figure out if the Lix pen actually works? All we know is the Lix pen has a 4.5 Watt power supply from a USB 3 port. It’s possible for a USB 3 powered 3D printing pen to work, albeit slowly, but the engineering is difficult and we don’t know if the Lix team has the chops."
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Can the Lix 3D Printing Pen Actually Work?

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  • by Lumpio- ( 986581 ) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @03:28PM (#46909363)
    If they hadn't cut small parts out of their video every time the pen was shown in action.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 03, 2014 @03:30PM (#46909373)

    Anyone else sick and tired of the overblown hype, the ridiculous promises and the fanboi delusions? It's molten plastic. I have a hot glue gun already, thanks.

    I am baffled at what problem this is solving, what need it addresses and who would buy it?

  • Wrong math (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Doub ( 784854 ) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @03:51PM (#46909471)
    Hackaday's maths are wrong, they build it on the assumption that a length of filament clearly shorter than two fingers width is 13cm long. Hackaday's news quality has been going down lately, I wonder why Slashdot is quoting them more and more.
  • by Anubis IV ( 1279820 ) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @04:08PM (#46909543)

    It really isn't, but the issue here is that the differences in the properties of ABS plastic and the power source mean that this simply isn't possible as presented. A glue gun is powered from a wall, whereas this device is powered over USB. And typical glue in a glue gun melts at a fraction of the temperature that ABS plastic melts at.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 03, 2014 @04:18PM (#46909573)

    I presume you're comparing information processing to manipulating matter? How fast did a 747 fly in 1985? How fast does it fly now, even with fancy new computers?

    Computers have been solving problems since the census, artillery tables, computing payrolls, scientific problems.

    Ask a Commodore 64 what is 2+2 and you get 4. You got 4 then, you get 4 now. You also got 4 on an Atari, and Apple, or a mainframe, or a PC, or a supercomputer.

    3D printing is more like getting 3.9 if you're extra-careful and skilled, and your friends get 3.5, and even you can't get the same 3.9 over and over again.

    How's being scientifically illiterate and pig ignorant working out for you?

  • by Concerned Onlooker ( 473481 ) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @05:11PM (#46909799) Homepage Journal

    This isn't so much a hand-held 3D printer as it is a hand-cramp generator.

  • by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 ) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @05:27PM (#46909875) Journal

    Hot melt glue guns have to melt the end of a large-diameter cylinder of plastic. The lix melts just the tip of a 1.75mm cylinder. Much less wattage is needed. I don't know if enough wattage is available from a USB connection, but it may be. I can easily imagine a 2 or 3 watt light bulb melting the plastic fast enough. I think the USB spec is 4.5 watts at 5v.

    The lix is still just a hot-melt glue gun, though a smaller version than commonly seen. There doesn't seem to be a claim on the lix website that it is controlled in any way by the computer, only that it is powered by a USB source. It could just as easily be powered by an external battery or power brick. Any resulting sculpture would be created in real time in the user's hand, and would not be designed before hand.

    This. The novelty is the ability to extrude by pushing a button instead of shoving the material in manually.

    The disclaimer above the video clearly says that portions of the video have been accelerated. Which is normal when watching demos of 3D printers, and also normal when watching artists demonstrate their process via video. So, you could hardly claim it was misleading or deceptive.

    There's nothing indicating that there isn't a warm up time involved in using the pen, just like any other glue gun. It would seem pretty self evident to me that there's some sort of thermal mass inside the pen, surrounded by an insulating sheath to protect the users hands, and that you have to let it sit and warm up before you use it.

    Did anyone else realize Brian Benchoff's not exactly "Mr Wizard' when they read the second paragraph of his post?

    The device is powered through a USB 3 port. In the video, the Lix team is using a MacBook Pro. This has a USB port capable of delivering 900 mA at 5 Volts, or 4.5 Watts. Another 3D printing pen, the 3Doodler, uses a 2A, 12V power adapter, equal to 24 Watts. Considering the 3Doodler works, and they both do the same basic thing, there’s something extremely odd going on here.

    All I could think was "Did you see that nerd pick up that pen? That nerd is a scrawny wimp. A football player is much stronger. Considering that football players can pick up a pen, there's something extremely odd going on here."

  • by laird ( 2705 ) <lairdp@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Saturday May 03, 2014 @11:38PM (#46911239) Journal

    Kickstarters have delivered thousands of products successfully, so they're clearly not all scams. There have been a few scams that made it onto the site, which were shut down as people dug into their claims - the "crowd" doesn't passively hand over money, they dig with impressive thoroughness when they think they're being taken advantage of, and Kickstart shuts down projects as a result of crowd investigations. Of course, Kickstarter also filters out many projects (presumably including most scams), so if you look at Kickstarter, the projects generally look plausible. Not all a good idea, of course, but that doesn't make them a scam. The result, for me, is that of the large number of Kickstarts that I've backed, only one was a scam (or massive incompetence) - the vast majority deliver, and the ones that don't are people who (as far as I can tell) honestly got in over their heads and couldn't pull it off, which is the risk that you have to accept when contributing to a startup. Kickstarter is not a store.

    I can compare to the VC route. I've done two VC-backed startups (both ended in successful acquisitions, woot!), so I can make a comparison. If anything, because there's usually a lot less money in a Kickstarter than a VC-backed company, there's less incentive to scam, and greater transparency from Kickstarters than from people pitching VCs. And because Kickstarters are mainly shooting for modest goals, rather than VC's "shooting for the moon", the success rate for Kickstarts is a lot higher than VC-backed startups.

    Even though they're both ways to fund things, Kickstarter and VCs are very different worlds. Kickstarter's average successful project raises $40K, and nobody gets equity. Most VCs aren't interesting in any deal that doesn't have a lot more zeroes in it, and of course they get tons of equity in return. Anywhere there's money on the table people will try scamming, but both Kickstarter and VCs have mechanisms to protect them from abuse, that work well enough that overall the systems work.

You can measure a programmer's perspective by noting his attitude on the continuing viability of FORTRAN. -- Alan Perlis