What happens when you combine two of the world’s most disruptive technologies? That’s what the newly formed site 3DP4BTC is exploring as they offer custom 3D printing for Bitcoin. That’s right, you can now order anything a 3D printer can produce with a purely digital currency that you help run from the comfort of your home. Welcome to the future ladies and gentlemen.
Also referred to simply as Crypto Printing, 3DP4BTC is the intersection of two burgeoning technologies, 3D printing and Bitcoin. 3D printing has been grabbing a lot of headlines as the technology is continually explored and expanded. For instance, Venture Beat recently reported about a project combining 3D printing and augmented reality.
It’s not surprising that Bitcoin and 3D printing have been combined considering all the attention the two have garnered recently. In fact these two also happen to be the focus of Seed Fund Boost VC, who recently announced they’ll be focusing on Bitcoin for this summer’s incubator batch (Boost VC and Crypto Printing aren’t directly related).
Boost is sector and stage agnostic but have current interests in consumer tech, 3D printing and Bitcoin related companies.
How CryptoPrinting Works
Crypto Printing showcases their NFC-enabled Bitcoin and Litecoin simulcra under their shop section. Purchasing these is pretty straightforward. Just add your choice to your shopping cart, enter your shipping information and checkout with BitPay (If you’re unfamiliar with BitPay it’s the same service I used in our recent NameCheap review). The simulcra are offered for $17 per Bitcoin/Litecoin or $30 for the pair.
While these NFC-enabled simulcra are their flagship products, they’re not the only offerings from Crypto Printing. In fact they offer custom 3D printing. So with a few Bitcoin at your disposal you can now print pretty much anything that a 3D printer can produce. Just use their custom orders form to provide them with a STL file and your contact information. They’ll then get back to you with a price and any other pertinent information.
I’ve been pretty intrigued by 3D printing after learning of the low cost of MakerBots as well as a slew of new models. Still I haven’t had the funds or the time to really try the process out yet. Crypto Printing offers a pretty simple way to get started with 3D printing without the overhead cost or time of buying and setting up your own printer.
I decided to start out by ordering a few of their Bitcoin and Litecoin simulcra. To be exact I ordered one Bitcoin simulcra with a NTAG206 NFC tag, one Bitcoin simulcra with a Mifare 1k NFC tag, and one Litecoin simulcra with a NTAG206 NFC Tag. After printing the Crypto Printing staff informed me that one of the Bitcoins had a slight blemish on the edge which I opted to keep so I could tell the two different tag types apart.
Once they’d finished printing Crypto Printing sent me a photo of the finished products. They gave me the choice to pay in Bitcoin or in Litecoin. As with other Bitcoin merchants like BitcoinStore and BitcoinIn, Crypto Printing does not accept other payment forms such as PayPal or Credit Cards. I opted to pay in Bitcoin and was sent a Bitcoin address. I paid out the specified Bitcoin to the address and sent the shipping address to Crypto Printing.
The Crypto Printing staff were very helpful when it came to any questions I had about their products. They shipped the product the day after I ordered. This was to be expected given that I ordered in the afternoon and they still had to print the product. The Bitcoin simulcra arrived in about 3 business days from my date of order.
I’m pretty happy with the product I received. While I don’t currently have a NFC enabled phone, I hope to borrow one shortly to test out how the NFC tags in these coins works. The simulcra are pretty well built and as advertised are waterproof. For the time being I’ll probably be using them mostly as props, though I hope to explore their other uses in the not too distant future. As for the service Crypto Printing provides, I plan on using them again in the future. At the moment I’m searching for a Raspberry Pi case with a Bitcoin emblem on the top that I can have printed off.
NFC Enabled Simulcra
So what’s the point of the NFC tags embedded in these Bitcoin and Litecoin simulcra? Well if you’re not familiar with NFC tags, they hold some data and can be used to store anything from a site URL to Bitcoin Addresses to anything else that fits the provided space. For instance, these Bitcoin simulcra with NFC tags could be used to store a Bitcoin public address, to which users with a NFC enabled phone could instantly send Bitcoin. It’s another way that physical merchants could begin accepting Bitcoin. For a more in depth understanding of NFC tags follow this link.
Interview With Crypto Printing
The staff at Crypto Printing were kind enough to answer a few additional questions I had regarding the services they provide.
CryptoJunky: Does your printer have a dual extruder or single?
Crypto Printing: We use a single extruder at the moment, though we’re contemplating putting a dual extruder together. That project is on the horizon.
CryptoJunky: What type of filament do you typically use?
Crypto Printing: We typically use PLA, but we have ABS on hand if need be, and are working to start using polycarbonate. There will be an announcement about it when we feel confident enough to offer that material as well.
CryptoJunky: What items are most requested?
Crypto Printing: We’ve not had a huge number of repeat requests, though most of our customers are interested in our Bitcoin or Litecoin simulacra. Beyond that, raspberry pi cases are popular.
CryptoJunky: Have you had any particularly unique items requested?
Crypto Printing: Because there are so many possibilities with 3D printing, and because the Bitcoin community is relatively small, each new request is pretty unique – we’ve not come anywhere close to exploring the range of possible designs which can be made.
CryptoJunky: What are some good resources to point people to for STL files?
Crypto Printing: STL files are simply text files with a series of triangles (and their normal vectors) defining where the surface of your object is, and which side is ‘in’ or ‘out’. Sometimes these files require some cleanup prior to being ‘sliced’ for printing. (Slicing is a term used to describe the process of turning an STL model into a series of GCodes which tell the printer where to go)
Programs for making STL files: OpenSCAD, Blender, Sketchup, Meshlab, Solidworks(if you can)
Programs for manipulating STL files: ReplicatorG, NetFabb, Meshlab
CryptoJunky: What make/model printer are you using?
Crypto Printing: I build my own, but they’re loosely RepRap Mendel-type printers. No company systems here, though I can give some recommendations if anyone is looking to buy a kit or completed system. The first kit came from a little mom and pop company called TechZone which no longer exists.
CryptoJunky: What sort of volume in orders are you seeing?
Crypto Printing: Well, lets just say that it’s not more volume than I can handle myself on a part-time basis. We have often discussed the possibility of networking to include other printers as part of a larger printing network, however the demand hasn’t been there to push it. Additionally there’s the practical issue of ‘validating’ people as producing quality work in a timely fashion. If there were so many orders that I couldn’t handle them, then we’d openly talk about this expansion.
CryptoJunky: Have you seen any correlation in price volatility and ordering?
Crypto Printing: Hard to say with so little data, but i’ll say that I saw more orders just before and after the April peak than during the week before hand. Additionally, I can’t deconvolve that from our own advertisement efforts: making a little noise here and there has generated attention for us and then people want to order something. Right now we’re still pretty obscure – Most people still don’t bother to list us when they start thinking about services which except litecoin. I wish I could give a more definitive answer, but I can’t.
Overall I’m pretty happy with what I received from Crypto Printing. They responded very quickly to my inquiries and produced a pretty good product. My initial thoughts on the simulcra were to use them as props for stock photos. However, after looking into NFC tags a bit more I’ve decided to play around with them to see just how friendly they could be for physical merchants. Unfortunatley, this also means I’ll have to upgrade my aging Droid to an NFC enabled version. Now if I could just find a wireless carrier that accepts Bitcoin…
For questions regarding this article or others you can contact us at CryptoJunky at zoho dot com.