a fablab in your home – 3D printing for the masses
3D printers are v. exciting to designers. They allow you to manufacture plastic objects in your workshop, office or home.
A few months ago I started to read about fablabs and tech factories that design objects that they manufacture from plastic in a few hours using a three-dimensional printers held on-site. For prototyping small items or creating low volume runs, these printers remove the need for expensive factory production development.
3D printers take any correctly formatted design schematic for a part or whole object and fabricate it from cooking nylon powder into a molded finished plastic product. These allow manufacturers to create parts, models or everyday objects in just a few hours.
The technology allows you to design an object that will clip together from separate pieces, like Lego blocks, or whole items. As well as being able to create your own designs, it’s envisaged that in the future you will be able to buy and download schematics for new items or replacement parts in your own 3D lab.
Over the last decade large and expensive early 3D printers have been used by airline and automotive designers, as well as in fablabs at universities, such as the one at MIT. These machines typically cost US$75-150,000.
But in a generational leap, a new model is about to be launched that costs just US$4,995 – easily affordable by design agencies or inventors who may exploit the technology to it’s full very rapidly.
In the USA, Desktop Factory is about to launch the US$4,995 model. It looks like a cross between a large laser printer and a microwave oven. The nylon powder is cooked by a halogen bulb inside the unit and objects may typically be manufactured for a few hundred dollars.
The price of the technology is tumbling, to the point that Desktop Factory anticipate selling a home-user/hobbyist model for $1,000 within a few years.
I wonder when someone will appear on the BBC’s Dragon’s Den with a working prototype for their new wonder widget, created on their own 3D printer? Once you learn how to create the schematics, the unit will allow you to manufacture anything your fevered imagination can come up with.
Now I guess someone needs to start work on the spray-paint attachment to finish the raw products off beautifully.
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