3D Printers

interlocking spheres printed with a 3D printer

I read this article about a 3D printer that was recently unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show and couldn’t help but get a bit excited.  Sure, as the article points out, at $1300, this “affordable” printer may not be affordable for everyone.  (It’s not for me.)  But it’s getting closer to affordable.

The notion of being able to create or download a 3D image file on my computer, send it to the printer via a USB cable, and have the real object in my hand a few minutes (or a couple of hours) later is pretty amazing — and I’m not even in a business that does any rapid prototyping, nor do I have a burning need for my own custom designed neon ABS plastic chess set, two of the most often cited uses for such a device.

The best part will be watching the prices come down on these.  They are a bit expensive now, but in five years, I could see myself forking over $500 for something like this.  Especially if the media that is “printed” comes down in price as well.

I’m sure, in addition to being a fun, novel tool with which to experiment, I could find more and more uses for it once I had one.  Kids break one part of their favorite toy?  Make another!  This gadget were exactly the same but with a built-in loop for hanging it from a hook?  No problem!  Like something I have?  I’ll scan it and email it to you and you can print one for yourself (almost) instantly!  It’s a pretty exciting future.

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4 Comments

Filed under Inspiration

4 responses to “3D Printers

  1. My husband’s an engineer and saw devices like this in use years ago. As you said, they have a really practical use in engineering for rapid prototyping – despite the cost of the machines, and then the production of the finished piece, it is still a lot cheaper than tooling up to produce a single item that may turn out not to be exactly what you want. I seem to remember him saying that because of the way they work, you can also create pieces that may not be possible to create (or would be extremely difficult to create) any other way.

  2. Jeff

    We’re getting a Makerbot Replicator down here at the LRC in May. I don’t think it will make it in time for CALL but next time your down we’ll have to create some Cuisenaire rods or something. I’m hoping to use the 3D printer to create durable casings for a Raspberry Pi/Pico projector combo to create a ‘pocket classroom’.

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