Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The rise of 3-D printers

Interesting article here at CNNMoney with regards to the increasing popularity of 3D printers and the plans of HP and Google to make it available to the common household.

Model kit companies use 3D printers to prototype designs into plastic form from 3D models which they then refine and test fit in the design studio before sending to the mold making and injection plastic machines for mass production. Probably one reason too why we see a lot of kits come out as quickly as the benefits of rapid prototyping with a 3D printer are easily felt by the speed you can now bring a design to market.

Prices for industrial grade type 3D printers are in the neighborhood $100,000+ but there is the Makerbot DIY 3D printer that was born out of the Reprap project that can allow you to build your own open source 3D printer. Limitations of the current Makerbot/Reprap is in the quality of the printed 3D object, wherein it doesn't come out very smooth and detailed because it uses a melted plastic extrusion method to form the 3D object. But considering how young the Reprap project is, its safe to assume that this hurdle can easily be overcome within the following years.

They say that if this trend continues, eventually in the future you wouldn't need to buy the item you desire, you would instead buy the plans then print it out in your own 3d printer. I remember that the first time I got introduced to the concept of a 3D printer and it was in an episode of Star Trek, wherein the crew were using the replicator to replicate anything from a coffee cup to food. Now wouldn't that be a nice future to look forwards to.

One downside I'm seeing in having a 3D printer in your house is the same problem as having an ordinary computer printer. You end up printing stuff you don't really need which results in more trash for the planet.