Thursday, June 16, 2011

3D Printers Now in Homes and Classrooms

    3D Printers Now in Homes and Classrooms
  • Once relegated to scientific industries like space, medicine and engineering, 3D printers are becoming less expensive and easier to use. The newest models are now appearing in classrooms and even households around the country.
  • Once relegated to scientific industries like space, medicine and engineering, 3D printers are becoming less expensive and easier to use. The newest models are now appearing in classrooms and even households around the country.From making space station parts to robots, 3D printers have grown in potential and power in recent years. Now, 3D printers are becoming smaller and cheaper, making them useful for day-to-day household projects.
    Software behind 3D printing technology creates two-dimensional cross-sections of three-dimensional objects. 3D printers then deposit layers of material to create the objects. While various industries, including dental and medical, have made use of 3D printers for years, the machines are becoming more common for everyday items, such as keys and jewelry.
    The RapMan 3D printer is transparent, simple and significantly cheaper than previous 3D printer models. (Source: 3D Systems)
    According to a recent article by CNN Money, the prices of 3D printers are rapidly dropping. While just five years ago, even inexpensive 3D printers could cost as much as $50,000, consumers can now buy them for around $1,000.
    3D Systems, a South Carolina 3D printing company, hopes to lead the market in making the technology mainstream, according to the article.
    "We've been doing 3D printing for 25 years," Rajeev Kulkarni vice president of global engineering at 3D Systems, told CNN Money. "We've had production systems and large systems for a long time. This is our attempt now to get at the consumer level, where we make 3D printing accessible to the mass market."
    3D Systems recently teamed with software companies Alibre and Autodesk to create RapMan, a reasonably priced 3D printing system. The printing kit, which costs $1,499, allows users to create small models and machines. Its transparent interface means users can see how the printer works, making it ideal for students.
    The machine is simple enough for use in small businesses, schools and even households. Case in point: A 7th grade student from California is using the 3D printer to learn about mechanics and engineering.
    Still, the printers are still quite costly compared with other household electronics. Grant Schindler, a researcher at Georgia Tech, told CNN Money that 3D printers will need further improvements for them to become mainstream.
    "It's more like 10 years before it comes really common," he said. "And there has to be a killer app—maybe jewelry is it. There needs to be something that everyone wants, that everyone says, 'I need this 3D printer.'"
    More information about the 3D printer trend, as well as a video, can be found here.

    Also see the MakerBot 3D printing systems at the Maker Faire at the Henry Ford on July 30-31 ,2011 in  Detroit.

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