New World Record Indoor 3D Print Is a Campervan

A Canadian company has seen off the previous world record for indoor printing with a plastic filament campervan. The 3D-printed van – a world first in itself – is over three times larger than the previous record holder, measuring just under two by four meters, being six feet wide and thirteen feet long.

Specialists at Saskatoon’s Create Cafe, an organization which aims to promote 3D printing across a range of spheres across Canada, brought the trailer into existence over nine days, using their own custom-made ErectorBot 3D printer.

The campervan, which has been named “The Wave,” needs no chassis and is fully-waterproof thanks to its seamless design. The inventors intend to make it available for public purchase towards the end of the year, once it has been fitted out with windows and the requisite appliances and electronics. Customers will be able to have their vans tailored for their own specific needs. To demonstrate the trailer’s potential in this area, “The Wave” can be fully converted into a cabin for ice fishing.

In addition to preparing the campervan for the market, the Saskatchewanian team is also looking at ways to improve the production process, with a focus on reducing vibrations during the print, which they hope will reduce both the printing time and the high temperatures they were forced to endure as the printer worked through day and night. Another challenge they hope to eliminate from future prints is that of dealing with unexpected software reboots, which can significantly extend production time.

“The Wave” weighs an impressive 272kg (600lbs), yet its developers are hoping to produce even heavier and larger versions in the future, including sixteen-foot (4.9m) and nineteen-foot (5.8m) truck bed models.

The breakthrough represents yet another stride forward for the 3D printing world, which has recently seen the addition of homeless shelters and even bridges to the list of products which are expected to revolutionize both the way we live and our ideas about manufacturing.

This American Company Took Only 1 Day to 3D-print a House

US construction firm ICON unveiled the first 3D-printed home to be given a permit, at last month’s South by Southwest tech conference in Austin, TX. The company built the home with mortar, using its own custom-built printers. The endeavor brought together experts in advanced materials, robotics and computer software to produce a viable and affordable housing option for developing countries and disaster-prone areas of the world.

Company co-founder Jason Ballard told VOA News that the printing process was intended to be used in extremely unfavorable weather conditions, such as those following cyclones, storms and monsoons, in order to provide rapid relief following the loss of housing. He went on to say that the display home itself was printed in high winds, blowing dust and rain, in order to show that this was achievable.

The company’s printers are designed to be as lightweight as possible, to facilitate transportation and assembly in such inclement conditions. They principally consist of light aluminum and take up just nine meters in width and 4.5 meters in height. Production of the homes is done in situ, and once completed, the printer can be moved to the next site.

ICON believes that 3D printing offers a rapid and affordable solution to worldwide housing problems, where current methods are unsatisfactory. As it is considerably easier to build the printers themselves than it is to build a traditional home, the company hopes that their usage will be taken up around the areas of the globe where they are most needed.

The home on show at South by Southwest was printed by a machine running at just one fourth of its top speed, yet it was completed in less than two days. When operating at full speed, it is expected that such homes could be printed and ready to use in less than half a day.

3D-printed homes are a focal point of a joint project between ICON and a non-profit organization called New Story. The project intends to address the need for rapidly-built and affordable housing of the millions of people each year who lose access to adequate housing.

New Story’s founder and CEO, Brett Hagler, went on to tell the VOA that current estimates put the number of people around the world in need of safe shelter at as many as one billion. By working together with ICON, New Story hopes it can help to reduce that number significantly in the coming years. The NPO has already started to work with families in poverty in different parts of the world to address their lack of housing, but admits that its present efforts have a negligible effect on the overall numbers of those in need, given the sheer scale of the crisis.

Hagler says that the only way to make a real and lasting difference is for programs like New Story’s collaboration with ICON to expand. Given that the 3D printers used to produce their homes can produce results much faster than previous techniques, he hopes to see them used to build whole communities in a relatively short space of time – a few months as opposed to many years.

Notwithstanding the importance of this new development, further work ks still needed in order to find ways to reduce both the time need for, and cost, of production, while still maintaining the same level of quality.

A 3D-printed home currently costs around $6,500, but Hagler believes that the partnership will eventually be able to bring that price below the $4,000-dollar mark. Reducing the purchase cost of such homes is essential if they are to become a truly viable option for the poorest families around the world. While 3D-printing offers exciting possibilities to real estate markets in all countries, Hagler believes in the importance of focusing on addressing the most pressing needs first and foremost; within the next few months, New Story will start producing such homes in El Salvador.

10 New 3D Printers at GearBest

GearBest has always been the best online store to go to when it comes to buying 3D printers directly from China. The store has an impressive line of DIY 3D printer kits as well as ready-to-print models that cover a wide price range starting from sub-$200 kits to models that cost well over $500.

The first quarter of this year saw the release of new 3D printers with a higher level of refinement and sophistication from China. The hype surrounding consumer 3D printers may be cooling down but this year is a pretty exciting time if you’re looking to purchase a 3D printer in the sub-$1000 range thanks to the falling prices and increasing level of sophistication in consumer 3D printers.

Below is our list of the latest and most exciting 3D printers at GearBest.

Geetech E180

The E180 is one of many new Chinese 3D printers to be inspired by the iconic Monoprice Select Mini — arguably the most popular ready-to-print 3D printer in recent years. In the case of the E180, we not only have a printer that clearly looks inspired by the Select Mini but also one that’s trying to outclass it. At a glance, the E180 with its 3.2″ color touchscreen and futuristic casing looks somewhat more sophisticated than the Select Mini V2.

The E180 even goes one step further when it comes to sophistication with its accompanying EasyPrint 3D app which lets you operate the E180 via your smartphone or tablet. Priced at $260 including shipping, the E180 is certainly a good Select Mini V2 alternative thanks to its higher level of sophistication and aesthetics.


The QQ is FLSUN’s flagship delta printer and is one of three delta printers that the company produces. At $505, the QQ isn’t cheap but it certainly offers the best FLSUN has when it comes to delta printers. This includes a large print capacity of 250mm x 370mm, automatic bed leveling and color touchscreen. The QQ is also WiFi-enabled which means you can monitor an ongoing print while you’re away. Unlike FLSUN’s previous flagship delta — the FL-Q Cricket which had poor ventilation for its mainboard, the QQ comes with a cooling fan at its base where the mainboard is located to keep temperatures within a safe range.

Myriwell RL-200A

The RL-200A is one of the most good looking models in this list and resembles a desktop inkjet printer. At $575 shipped, it is one of the most expensive in this list but for that price you get a fully enclosed printer that’s great for printing materials such as ABS and Nylon. Not only that, the RL-200A’s casing is made out of 0.4mm sheets of aluminum which creates for a sturdy (and hopefully less noisy) structure. Product pages do not reveal much about the printer but from the few official product photos available at the moment, it does look like the RL-200A features linear bearings for all three axis.

Myriwell RLD-200C

At $273, the RLD-200C is the more affordable of two Myriwell printers featured in this list and is just as good-looking as its more expensive sibling — the RL-200A. The RLD-200C is a printer that requires some assembly and is shipped in a few pre-assembled components. Myriwell claims it takes only 20 minutes to assemble it. When fully assembled, the RLD-200C’s blue and purple parts makes it look like a very large Lego model. The RLD-200C also features a touchscreen and a printing nozzle that can be swapped very quickly. In fact, Myriwell claims the RLD-200C’s nozzle can be replaced in just 1 second.

Hoony H8

The Hoony H8 is one of two printers in this list to feature linear rails for all three axis. Though they tend to be harder to maintain and much more sensitive to wear and tear, linear rails provide better print accuracy compared to pulley setups. It also comes pre-assembled in 10 parts and takes approximately 30 minutes to build. It features a bowden extruder and a gamepad-style console panel that is separate from the printer. Print capacity is a modest 210 x 210 x 240mm and the H8 is available in blue, black or red gantry colors. Priced at just $215 with shipping, you’d be forgiven to think that it costs a lot more thanks to its sophisticated appearance and aesthetics.

Tevo Michaelangelo

Tevo is yet another Chinese brand that has been inspired by the popular Monoprice Select Mini. One of its latest and smallest 3D printers to date — the Michelangelo, has a print capacity of just 150 x 150 x 150mm and is priced at a very affordable $220. It may not come with all the extra bells and whistles such as a touchscreen LCD but at $220, it is one of the most affordable ready-to-print 3D printers from China. The Michelangelo requires no assembly and is ready to print right out of the box. It makes a good second or backup printer for those who already own much larger printers.

Lavewatch LW-J160

At $651, the LW-J160 is the most expensive printer in this list with a print capacity of only 160 x 160 x 160mm but what it lacks in print capacity, the LW-J160 makes up for it in features and quality. The LW-J160 features a full metal enclosure making it an ideal printer for printing ABS, nylon and other tricky materials that would require a constant ambient temperature to reduce the risk of delamination and warping. Not only that, the LW-J160 features linear bearings, a color touchscreen LCD and a print bed that’s powered by AC power which means heating the bed up would probably take only a minute or two. The LW-J160 also comes fully assembled and is available in black or blue casing colors.

Defensor R9

At $581 the R9 is yet another pricey printer in this list but for that price, you get a large print capacity of 260 x 260 x 280mm, a metal cube frame made of 3030 aluminum rails and a 32-bit LERDGE mainboard with a 3.2″ color touchscreen display. The R9 does away with the commonly used i3 design and features a print bed that moves along the Z axis which is great for reducing vibrations produced by rapid movement of the bed along the Y axis as is commonly seen on i3-style printers. The R9 also features linear bearings.

Hoony H2

The H2 is the most affordable printer by Hoony and is available for just $193 shipped. It features the same mainboard and console casing as the more expensive H8 but has a much smaller print capacity of 150 x 150 x 150mm. And like the larger H8, the H2 also features linear rails for all three axis. The H2 comes pre-assembled and is available in orange, white, blue and green casing colors.

Anet A9

The Anet A9 is yet another new Chinese 3D printer aimed at the mini market. Priced at $211, the A9 is about as basic as it gets when it comes to mini 3D printers. It has a print capacity of 160 x 160 x 200mm, a bowden extruder and a form factor that rises up vertically which saves plenty of space on any work desk. It even features a carrying handle at the top to help in transportation.

Xiaomi’s New MITU Drone Takes Aim at the DJI Tello

Xiaomi recently launched its latest and second drone to date — the MITU which is clearly aimed at competing against the DJI Tello. Unlike its earlier drone — the Mi Drone 4K, the MITU is a compact drone of mini proportions.

It is powered by brushed motors and has a diagonal motor size that’s smaller than some popular toy-grade drones such as the Syma X5UW. Although looking very similar to the Tello in terms of size and features, there is one key feature which sets the MITU drone apart from its DJI rival — the MITU was designed for aerial battles.

Product Highlights

  • HD 720P camera with 5.8G WiFi FPV
  • 10 minutes flight time
  • Aerial battle mode (using infrared “guns” and sensors)
  • Altitude hold with built-in optical flow sensor
  • 114mm diagonal motor distance
  • 88g weight
  • Can be piloted via a smartphone or Bluetooth remote controller
  • 50m control range

Of all features on the MITU, the aerial battle mode is probably the most exciting. This is a feature that allows two or more MITUs to engage in aerial battles using their built-in infrared “guns” and sensors (to detect hits).

Like any shooting game, each MITU drone is piloted using a smartphone app which also displays a WiFi FPV (first person view) video feed from the drone. In addition to the standard drone controls, the app also displays a cross-hair and fire button when in aerial battle mode.

When a MITU detects that it has been hit by an infrared beam from another MITU, it will shake and shudder. The aerial battle mode seems to be a lot of fun to play and will probably be a key selling point for the MITU. It would be interesting to see how far Xiaomi will take this aerial battle mode in terms of development. Adding visual and audio effects to the mode would surely make it even more engaging.

Another key feature of the MITU is its programming or coding mode which allows users to set a sequence of commands for the MITU to execute. The word “coding” may sound deep and may conjure the image of a computer programmer sitting in front of a computer writing endless lines of codes for an app but this is really not the case with the MITU. In fact, I think “coding” is not the right word to use for this feature as it only involves specifying a sequence of orders or commands for the MITU to perform.

In other words, it is very similar to planning an autonomous mission in Mission Planner for APM-powered drones. For example, a user can specify a 5-step sequence that tells the MITU to take off, perform a flip, take a photo and perform another flip before finally landing. There’s really no any coding element to this feature.

At $79 the Xiaomi MITU is indeed a very attractive to the DJI Tello which sells for nearly double the price. For the price of two Tellos, you can get a pair of MITU drones and have plenty of fun engaging in aerial battles with a friend. With its infrared “guns” and aerial battle mode, the MITU quite literally takes aim at the DJI Tello.

Raiscube R10 (Review)

The printer I chose for this review was the Raiscube R10 I recently purchased. It is basically a mutant clone of the Creality R10 with a couple major differences. The bed size is slightly smaller and the filament driver with 3 cooling fans is located on the extruder. This was the main reason I chose the R10 and I will get into more of that later.

For me, this review actually came at a perfect time in my 3D printing journey. My only other experience beside in the work environment was with the Da Vinci Mini Maker. That unit is truly plug and print ready and though it doesn’t allow many of the tweaks, it is an excellent starter machine for the price. (My opinion of course). However, as you will see, when I compare this to the Raiscube R10 I can honestly say I am getting a better printer that requires a higher learning curve to operate.

There are a few important things I think about when purchasing a 3D printer.

  • Quality
  • Print Specs (Assembly instructions, Size, Stepper motors, Extruder, filament driver)
  • Filaments allowable and Sample Prints


The quality of a 3d printer can be viewed from a few different angles. However overall, I am happy with the quality of this printer and after using it pretty much constantly over the last month the durability seems good as well. There were some hurdles. These couple issues needed to have some work arounds implemented, but I am living with them. I purchased this printer with an online coupon for a total of $338 shipped from Gearbest. It took about 10 days to arrive and though I have heard horror stories, I had no issues with that company. As I tell my friends, the printer is worth only about $300 or less out of the box and your skill in assembly and problem solving can bring this easily to the quality level of the $500 printers out there.

Another way of evaluating the quality starts with the unboxing of the printer. This printer comes in a very tightly packed box that almost seems too small for the actual size when assembled. Even so, they manage to get all the parts safely packed and accounted for. I have attached a link to the Youtube video of this unboxing. This video is pretty boring but if you like that kind of stuff, here it is.

I would have given the overall packaging an A, but soon after assembling the unit I found that one of my z threaded rods was bent. I still haven’t determined if this happened in transport or if I just need to loosen and redo the set screws. Regardless, I have very little patience for this and wanted to print right away. So, I quickly drew up a z bracket and attached it to both z screws (though only one side needed it.)

In addition to the z axis some of the pre-assembled parts were incorrect. All the axis wheels were overtightened. They could have also used some WD 40 to help them spin better but none of this was a show stopper. These wheels were easily loosened so they would spin properly.

Also, a few of the screws were loose on the following areas:

  • Fan shroud
  • Y axis motor mount

I had no complaints on the wiring. All of them were properly connected and easily manage with small zip ties (not included).

Though this is technically not a quality issue, the biggest con I had was with the annoying BEEP! Every time you moved through the screen selections the speaker it screamed like a high pitch banshee!!

The speaker was behind the screen and difficult to get to…. but this is a must to save your hearing and sanity. After removing about 8 screws, I was able to reach it and filled the speaker drum with hot melt glue. This reduced the volume to an acceptable beep.

Sorry I don’t have a picture of this but here is one to show where the speaker is located inside the box.

Specs of the Raiscube R10

The specifications of the Raiscube R10 put it on par and above some of its competitors. The assembly instructions were pretty good and I had the 3d printer assembled within an hour. Some translation elements seemed off and one section about leveling seemed to have been placed out of order. However, that section does note the importance to level the bed when it and the extruder are heated. As a noob to leveling, I was amazed at how much a little heat changes leveling so much. In the end, I was glad the hint was included and really appreciated the instructions.

The Print size of 240”X300X300mm is a perfect size for me. I know everyone always wants the larger bed, but you have to ask yourself if you have the patience for a 35-48+ hour print. While I have done this, I tend to limit myself to the overnight prints.

The stepper motor configuration includes Dual Z axis motors. This really caught my attention. It is actually a feature that is on the newer version of the 3d printer it is cloned from (CR10). This is much appreciated if only they could have kept the z screw straight! Grrr.. but I digress.

Filament driver is in the extruder assembly. This is a feature I absolutely love. This is because it will make printing in flexible filament so much easier!!!

Filaments allowable and Sample Prints

As stated above the filament driver being so close to the extruder will allow you to print in flexible filament. This would be the likes of TPU and others you can find online. In addition, unlike some printers, the filament is completely open and the user can purchase it from any brand. This is both a blessing and a curse as you will find out. The filament for example they included with the printer was garbage and the filament I used that was left over from my davinci worked great. I get the feeling I will have a lot to learn on this front.

Some of the sample prints made from this machine:

3D print test (R10 printed the yellow model, Davinci printed the white model)

This was a 3d print test from thingiverse. I have compared it to the davinci. In some ways it won, and others places it lost. The “wins” include the overall surface smoothness and lack of stringiness in the part. The r10 clearly did better here. The smallest of the actual writing did not appear on both parts but I have read this is also an issue with the builder comments. The R10 surprisingly failed with the overhang test. I believe two issues could have caused this. The bent z screw and the quality of the yellow filament included with the printer.

Simple 3D oval shape

Overall a great print with extremely smooth sides. A bit of an elephant’s foot at the bottom but again this is all in the tuning of the machine. In this case the heat bed settings.


I wasn’t going to do this print at first but it seems everyone does one so why not compare apples to apples. This print reminded me how much I enjoy having the bed self level on the other printer I have. Some day we will get to the point were this feature is standard, but until then……ugh…. level the bed. Regardless, I would suggest everyone to do this model at least once with their printer. I found myself really excited printing it! (By the way the mess inside the boat is a ‘GOT’ iron throne. I forgot someone thought it would be funny to add one but it is unprintable. Especially on the “course setting” I had place on the model.

Digital Sundial

Ever since I got into this hobby I have wanted to print this model. I was so updset when I came to the realization that my Davinci was both two small and not capable of the details require for this print. Luckily, the R10 met this challenge and I have made 2 of these for family members. For this example I was able to add a laser etched plate with my son’s name and place a small slot in the jar to make it a coin bank. Works great and I am always getting compliments on it.

One Plate Clock

Once the R10 proved itself with the sundial I went on to this one plate clock version also on thingiverse. I have the pictures of this below and a link to the youtube video showing this in action.

Spool Holder

Basic cylinder with a hole used to holder filament spools with large internal holes. Printed on coarse settings.

Spool Rack

Made this again with the garbage yellow included. Ran out mid print but enough of it was completed that I was still able to use it. Important to note this was one of my first prints. I immediately noticed the wavy sides and realized my z screw was bent. I fixed this later with the little z bracket mentioned earlier. Proper fix though will include replacing the rod. Warning with these overhead spools, as the filament starts to run out they can add a bit of tension to the system and can cause print to be under-extruded. This happened on my first benchy and behold.


The Raiscube R10 is a fairly good clone of the Creality R10 with some improvements. If it wasn’t for the bent z screw and the fact I had to buy a glass plate from home depot (not included) I would have given the machine a solid B+. There is a lot of room for different printers in this hobby but I am happy with this purchase. I hope you enjoyed the review and if you have any question please ask and I am happy to help.

MJX Bugs 5W Now Available for Pre-order

Earlier this year, MJX unveiled a new beginner drone — the Bugs 5W which features a 1-axis camera gimbal system, probably the world’s first system with only 1 axis of stabilization. Now that is not exactly something to shout about but stabilizing only on one axis is better than having no stabilization at all.

The Bugs 5W stabilizes its camera on the pitch axis and its going to be interesting to see how much this is going to help compared to systems that have fixed gimbals and no stabilization.

Though it’s been five months now, stock of the new Bugs 5W has been slow to arrive at popular online stores such as Banggood but recently we’re starting to see a few stores taking pre-orders of the 5W which could only mean one thing — the Bugs 5W may be ready to be shipped soon. This is probably good news for those who have been waiting for quite a while for it to start shipping.

Product Highlights

  • 1080P (30fps) / 8MP 5G WiFi FPV camera
  • 1/3″ CMOS image sensor
  • 1-axis mechanical gimbal stabilizer
  • Brushless motors
  • 250mm diagonal size
  • GPS positioning
  • Flight features:
    Altitude hold
    Follow me
    Automatic take-off / landing
    Headless mode
  • 7.4V 1800mAh battery
  • 15 to 18 minutes flight time (claimed)
  • 300 to 500m control distance
  • 200 to 300m FPV distance
  • 400g weight (with battery)
  • 4-channel transmitter with telemetry

At a pre-order price of $199, the Bugs 5W does look like an attractive option for those who want some kind of mechanical stabilization for their aerial videos, never mind if its only 1-axis. The next best option would be a DJI Spark (with remote controller) at just over $400 or a J.ME Drone with its 4K camera at $350. Both these drones offer 2-axis camera gimbal systems but they cost well over double what the Bugs 5W costs.

Coupled with GPS positioning, telemetry, altitude hold and brushless motors, the Bugs 5W is one of the best sub-$200 aerial photography drones for buyers on a very tight budget. Its 1080P camera also comes with 5G WiFi FPV which is capable of much higher data transmission speeds compared to earlier WiFi protocols (that is, if your smartphone or tablet supports 5G WiFi).

Not only that, the Bugs 5W also boasts a 1/3″ CMOS sensor for its camera which is about the same size as image sensors used in most smartphones today. This probably means the sensor, if coupled with some decent optics, would probably produce image quality quite similar to most mid-range smartphones today. This is indeed a pretty exciting development for those who have been waiting for entry-level drones to catch up in terms of camera image quality.

That 1/3″ sensor size could also mean that the 5W’s camera might come close to matching the image quality on the DJI Spark which has a sensor of similar size. Another interesting feature on the 5W is ESC active braking — a feature that’s typically found in FPV racing drones that allow for better flying precision and control.

The only disappointment that I can see on the Bugs 5W is its puny 2-cell 7.4V battery capacity of just 1800mAh. Now considering that the 5W has a weight of 400g, this translates to a pretty disappointing battery capacity-to-weight ratio. To add some perspective to this, the DJI Spark has a 3-cell 11.4V 1480mAh battery with a weight of 300g (without prop guards).

If the Spark is capable of flying for 15 minutes on average while recording videos, then I highly doubt the 5W can match that flight time with its heavier weight and lower capacity battery. My guess is 10 to 12 minutes of flight (while recording video) is a more realistic figure.

Nevertheless, the MJX Bugs 5W heralds an exciting era where sub-$200 aerial photography drones with decent image quality and 2-axis stabilization will become the norm. The 5W may have only 1-axis stabilization but it is just a matter of time before we see 2-axis camera gimbals on drones appear in the sub-$200 range.

Could the J.ME Drone Be the Ultimate DJI Spark Killer?

When the DJI Spark was released over a year ago, it quickly became the world’s best selfie drone thanks to its mechanically stabilized 1080P camera, great camera image quality (for the price) and compact form factor. Since then, rivals have been trying to play catch up without much success.

Among these is the Yuneec Breeze which was plagued with various connectivity and technical flaws. Other Spark alternatives such as the Hover Camera Passport, Zerotech Dobby and Wingsland S6 featured EIS (electronic image stabilization) for their cameras — an inferior way to “stabilize” a camera when compared to a 2-axis mechanical gimbal setup.

The Walkera PERI — another Spark alternative, looked very promising on paper with its 2-axis camera gimbal system which closely resembled the size and form factor of the Spark’s. The PERI also had a very similar size and design. Although announced at the end of last year, Walkera would later scrap the PERI for reasons unknown which means there isn’t any consumer drone out there currently that can match the Spark’s performance pound for pound.

Or is it?

Enter the J.ME Drone by Feima Robotics — a $350 drone that matches the Spark in almost every detail plus more. The J.ME was released somewhat quietly about a year ago without much fanfare. This wasn’t surprising because Feima Robotics — a newcomer to the consumer drone business, was a relatively unknown brand then and unlike many other Indiegogo drone scams, the company didn’t invest in any slick advertising video to promote the J.ME.

J.ME Drone Product Highlights

  • 23 minute flight time
  • 4K video (30fps) / 13MP photos
  • HD 1080P video (30fps)
  • 2-axis camera gimbal system
  • GPS/GLONASS positioning
  • 32GB built-in storage
  • Optical flow with ultrasonic sensors for indoor flight
  • HD 720P real-time video transmission
  • 550g weight (including battery)
  • 14.4V 3000mAh 4S battery
  • 300m control range
  • 100m FPV range
  • Fly-by-app

This explains why many haven’t heard of the J.ME and what it is capable of. Despite the lack of publicity and brand power, Feima Robotics spent much of 2017 developing it into a pretty decent Spark alternative.

One key selling point of the J.ME is its 23 minute flight time — that’s a whole 8 minutes more than what the Spark is capable of. 15 minutes may be the bare minimum for any serious aerial photography work but from my 6 months experience of owning a Spark — it’s probably the drone’s biggest flaw.

15 minutes may be enough for other drone use such as fast-paced FPV racing but in aerial photography, you’ll need a bit more time to line up your shots and frame them properly. This is one reason why most serious aerial photographers have chosen to go with the Mavic Pro or Phantom 4 instead of the Spark.

Both these drones have a flight time of well over 20 minutes. Besides the longer flight time, the J.ME also has a few other features that trump the Spark — voice interaction, built-in 32GB storage and 4K video.

The J.ME was released a year ago and since then, numerous reviews about it have emerged and they have been generally positive. And we are talking about genuine product reviews here where reviewers have actually tested and flown the J.ME themselves. Most of these reviewers have generally praised the J.ME for its reliability and build quality which they claim is on par with the DJI Spark.

This is an important factor to consider when purchasing any drone. Having fancy features such as 4K video, GPS and a mechanically stabilized camera gimbal amounts to nothing if the drone is prone to crashing or flying away.

Priced at $350 (with remote controller), the J.ME is a highly attractive option for those looking for a good DJI Spark alternative. Of course, getting a Spark isn’t exactly a bad idea. You can buy one with a remote controller for just $400 these days but that 15 minute flight time may be a deal breaker for some buyers.

Ehang’s Massive 1374-Drone Show in Xian Was a Record-breaking Event, with a Little Hiccup.

Xi’an, a former capital of dynastic China, in the country’s Shaanxi province, is perhaps most commonly associated with tradition and history. Yet last month, the home of the Terracotta Warriors demonstrated to the world that, while its foundations may be ancient, its gaze is firmly on the future. The city hosted a mass drone performance that broke all previous records, with a fleet of 1,374 drones simultaneously airborne.

The performance, which lasted for 13 minutes and covered a kilometer of airspace, surpassed the previous world record, achieved by Intel at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Guinness World Record regulations stipulate that each drone must be of the quadcopter variety and must remain in flight for at least one minute.

The company behind the Xi’an show was Ehang Egret, showcasing its Drone Formation Flight software. Despite the record-breaking test show just days before, CEO Shi Zheyuan voiced concerns that the crowd’s cellphone signals might interfere with the drones. As they spread out to form a variety of 3D images, celebrating the city’s history, and wowing more than 100,000 onlookers, a number of quadcopters broke loose from the formation, and even crashed to the ground.

While the focus largely remained on the show’s successes, video footage of the event aired by Beijing News shows a number of Ehang Egret’s drones falling out of the sky during the final phase of the performance, and this will no doubt be a pressing concern for Mr. Shi. Notwithstanding, he has firmly placed his company at the forefront of UAV performance, with the Xi’an display adding to their list of extravagant shows. Back in February, Ehang Egret pulled off a similar display of 1,000 drones over downtown Guangzhou, and the company has also announced that it is developing a drone which can be used as an aerial taxi.

Drones Help Make Medical Services Faster and More Affordable in Nepal

As drones continue to become more and more ubiquitous in daily life, one of their most useful applications appears to be making good on its promise. Search and rescue drones have been saving lives for a number of years now, being employed by organizations such as the Red Cross, mountain rescue teams and even inner city police forces, in the hope of locating and getting help to those who go missing.

One of the most recent organizations to make use of drones in this way is Nepal’s National Innovation Center (NIC), and it’s a decision to which 60 year-old Om Bahadur Purja owes a great deal. The Nepali laborer and father of three found himself stranded, four hours away from medical help, when he sprained his ankle in the isolated Himalayan settlement of Ramche. Whereas, until now, he would have had to hobble, or be carried to, the closest medical facility, Purja was able to receive treatment on site. NIC’s Himalayan delivered the basic medicines and equipment in a short space of time – an achievement the organization hopes to replicate throughout the country’s remote, mountainous villages, where healthcare facilities are practically non-existent. Such communities can wait months for essential medical care to arrive, as the country struggles to cope with fewer than one doctor per 10,000 people.

The project was the inspiration of a former teacher, Mahabir Pun, who made awed the country over a decade ago by successfully providing the most inaccessible regions, such as Ramche, with
internet coverage. This feat won him the Ramon Magsaysay Prize, seen by many as Asia’s Nobel Prize. The Himalayan drone is the next stage for Pun’s NIC in improving basic living standards in such areas, which have hereunto relied on traditional healers in the absence of modern medical care.

The scheme has also attracted praise for having employed local Nepali graduates to design and assemble the drone. Pun hopes that such projects will provide future employment for the country’s most able and innovative students, who are often forced to leave the country in search of meaningful work. By drawing on local talent to work in its laboratory, NIC was also able to control costs which may have otherwise become unsustainable had it been forced to recruit specialists from outside the country. Pun believes that such successes will encourage young engineers to think twice before leaving for a career abroad.

While the drone’s current range is quite limited, NIC is working on improvements which will see heavier payloads delivered over greater distances. At present it is being used to deliver supplies to those in need, such as Om Bahadur Purja, and to carry blood samples to laboratories for analysis.

Pun is not a man to be deterred by the scale of the challenge ahead. His plan to connect the country’s most far-flung villages to the internet was successful despite the fact that those villages were not even connected by road or cellphone coverage, and was achieved in the middle of a 10-year Maoist insurgency that was sweeping Nepal. Pun is presently building relationships with government officials in a bid to ease drone restrictions – a shrewd move in recognition of the fact that political obstacles can be just as difficult to overcome as geographical ones.

US Researchers Make Advances in 3D Printing on Human Skin

The research paper published in April’s edition of the Advanced Materials journal detailed the use of a customized 3D printer to print electronics onto the skin of a human hand. This research, carried out at the University of Minnesota, represented the latest in an impressive string of breakthroughs in the field of 3D printing technology. As with many innovations – from the PC through to drones – ideas for the commercialization and application to industry of 3D technology were initially limited. Yet, far from remaining a quirky basement hobby for tech enthusiasts, recent developments have included the successful 3D printing of metals – which is now being used by Boeing to produce fasteners for their fleet of aircraft – and now the printing of such metals onto human beings.

The technique used by the researchers involved designing a non-standard 3D printer that could better deal with non-fixed surfaces. Until now, standard 3D printing involved the open-loop method, prior to which the machine would be properly calibrated and then allowed to execute its task. As such, it was clearly inappropriate for dealing with such varied surfaces such as human skin. The researchers eventually came up with a new design for their printer, which uses a closed-loop method and real-time feedback control. This technique allows for direct ink writing onto surfaces which lack a definite, calibratable structures (no two human hands are exactly alike), which can also potentially be moving.

This hybrid technique automatically chooses and places surface-mounted electronic components, combining them with the 3D printing of electrical connects. It represents, in effect, an extension of research already carried out by the same team, in which they demonstrated how to print hydrogels of biological cells onto the skin of laboratory mice.

The lead author of the study, Michael McAlpine, and Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Minnesota, Benjamin Mayhugh, speculated that the technology could have future military applications. Much like a 21 st Century Swiss Army Knife, the printer could be carried in the backpacks of modern soldiers, and be used to print the required tools for their current situation, right there and then. Only, rather than being limited to a blade, screwdriver and such tools, the lightweight 3D printer could be used to print a large variety of electronics and chemical sensors, each customizable in design. And for those concerned about spiraling military budgets, such a machine could set the army back less than $400 – significantly lower than the $578-dollar estimated cost of the modern soldier’s walkie-talkie.

The key to this latest breakthrough is the aforementioned usage of temporary markers, which are applied to the skin, which effectively guide the system as it does its job. The printer uses these markers to scan the surface when printing, all the while using computer vision to check for surface movement and make the appropriate adjustments, all in real time. Designing a system which was capable of doing this was necessary due to the near-impossibility of remaining perfectly motionless for those whose skin is being printed on, for the duration of the process. The new technique allows the printed circuits to keep their shape regardless of the shape or movement of the hand.

As most 3D printing inks need to cure at high temperatures, it was necessary to develop a specialized ink in order to avoid serious skin burns. The team came up with an ink composed of specialized flakes of silver that can both cure and conduct at room temperature. Once printing is complete, the metal can simply be peeled off of one’s skin, or even washed off with water.

In further applications of the technology, not only could soldiers print solar cells to charge electronics, and grafts to directly heal wounds, but also temporary sensors which could detect the presence of enemy chemical and biological agents in time to save lives.

As part of their research, the team worked closely with Dr. Jakub Tolar, one of the world’s leading experts in treating rare skin diseases, and also dean of the medical school at the University of Minnesota Department of Pediatrics. As the potential scope of printing electronics and biological cells directly onto the skin is currently not yet understood, it could merely be a matter of time before we start to hear about the development of advanced treatments for cutaneous conditions.