Coming Soon to a Desktop Near You: Massive Amounts of 3D for the Masses
Apr 13, 2007
Commentary by Stephen Downes

I have seen both 3D scanning and 3D printing for myself in the National Research Council labs - this was almost five years ago so they must be getting at least a little closer to commercial application. It's a bit of a leap from that to desktop manufacturing, though, as this would require either that we stock every element in our printer (in addition to smelting capacities) or acquire some sort of transmutation capacity, which would be much bigger news than desktop manufacturing. Most of the 3D we'll be looking at for anything like the short term will be virtual - good for the Wii, less good for Transmutation Industries Inc. Total: 131
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Re: Coming Soon to a Desktop Near You: Massive Amounts of 3D for the Masses

I actually encouraged my previous employer to purchase a Rapid Prototyping unit which they now use extensively in teaching design and engineering courses. The model came in at about 100K which is too expensive for most home users but it does full colour printing for use in stress and heat test diagrams so is pretty swish.

The less complex model came in at about $50k which is getting to a reasonable level for design work for small businesses and the prices are coming down.

Typically they use a plaster powder and 'print' a 1mm layer of glue. Then gently wipe the plaster powder over the glue and it sticks in place - repeat the process and you build up your 3D image.

There isn't however a huge need to change the initial base material (plaster) because structural strength for the 3D item comes from impregnating the casted item with things like super glues or other chemicals which create latex like properties. I've seen all sorts of things printed out - wheel bearings, cogs, fans, shoes and more.

In the National Geographic show 'Future Matters' I hypothesised that Rapid Prototyping could fundamentally alter the traditional shopping experience. Rather than go to a store in person or to wait for an online store delivery, the shopper will simply 'buy' the blueprint of the item they want. They get a software code, plug that into their unit and it would print out their very own brand new 'dinner set' right in their own home. No shipping costs, no storage costs, fewer salary costs etc. A win for all - the environment, business and shoppers - unless you work in a retail shop!

Marcus Barber
Strategic Futurist [Comment] [Permalink]

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