I have been following the progress of 3D printers which are very fascinating. They are becoming affordable for the home user in addition to being simpler to use.

3D printing takes a three-dimensional data file and creates a solid object by printing it layer by layer. Great for engineers, designers, and hobbyists. Excellent for proof of concepts and making little unique gadgets.

Three organizations have come out with their own flavors: Makerbot, Printrbot, and Cubify.

It is amazing to see what people have come up with for unique designs. I especially like the geometrical 3D shapes.

Creating 3D data models has become increasingly more simple, especially with free software by companies such as the Autodesk 123D suite. They offer free apps to capture, sculpt, design, and make 3D models. You can use an iPhone to take a series of photos of an object from different angles using 123D Catch and it will render it into a 3D model. You can use 123D Sculpt on an iPad to use finger gestures and mould 3D digital clay.

It would then be possible to use one of the above 3D printers and print a 3D model of what you have designed on the screen.

Fascinating to see the progress these past few years and I am very excited to see what’s coming.

 

 

37 Comments
  1. Thank you for the post. Here’s a decent resource to learn about a dozen or so more 3D printers: http://blog.makezine.com/volume/make-ultimate-guide-to-3d-printing/

  2. Thanks for the contribution Joe. There are indeed a lot of 3D printers emerging in the market now. Will be interesting to see where it is all heading. 🙂

  3. I’m surprised this isn’t getting as much attention as it should in the media, well perhaps in the US it is but here in the UK not many people even know about it! I think this is one of the biggest technological leaps our generation has made and will definitely change the future. Can you imagine the day where everyone has a 3D printer in their living room once the prices drop over time, we’ll have the ability to print any object we want at any time, sounds fantastic!

    • It certainly is something interesting to imagine. Yet I wonder, how long we will have to wait before they will actually become affordable. And even after the printer itself is affordable, I question about the raw material for printing.

    • I think it has been getting adequate news time. I see it on the tech websites pretty often. I’m sure many people are aware that these exist.

      It’s amazing to see the stuff people are making off these. Some guy even made a working gun…and another is in the process of making a working full scale car!

      • Yes, I agree, NatureSun. I have seen news reports as recently as this morning on CNN. It was on one of the Sunday morning political shows.

        They were talking about how the various capabilities of these 3D printers and how they will change manufacturing as we know it. They talked about the controversial aspects, such as people creating working guns, as you mentioned.

        They also noted that some of these 3D printers now have the capability of creating the replacement parts for themselves. I found that rather fascinating and quite futuristic, and yet it is happening right now!

  4. A 3D printer is amazing. It’ll be interesting to learn how companies compete with a 3D printer and whether or not it’ll increase the rate of new creations. I remember not too long ago when the news were discussing the possibility of printing a firearm with a 3D printer. The increasing rates of violence in the U.S. is also extremely frightening! I hope that there is some monitoring of what can be printed on a 3D printer.

  5. 3D Printers are a very interesting development. However, they are scary considering what can be created with them. I don’t like that violent weapons can be so easily made. I’m all for sharing of information, but that type of information is not productive in our society. I don’t want 3D printers to be used for the wrong reasons.

    • But anything in our lives can be used for the wrong reason. It is also scary what goes on in people’s minds these days… But the instances they actually reflect on reality is low, whih will probably be true of the printers too. And a lot of information we know as a society prevents us from being the upmost productive, that being said, people like to know the truth or as close as possible. It’s not time to be selective.

  6. I never really knew 3D printers were that easily available until I had watched the big bang theory. It’s quite fascinating as to what these 3D printers can do. I wonder if South Africa could offer these. Do you know of any shops in South Africa that may sell 3D printers?

  7. I’m so excited! We’re finally getting our Star Trek-esque replicators! I wonder if/when the 3D printers will be able to do food.

    • Eventually if not already, the printer should be able to do something with starch… Or sugar, if that counts… Probably wouldn’t come in too many flavors though. I think making candy is much more likely… And in that case, it’ll be a new art similar to amezaiku.

  8. This is very interesting indeed. I wonder if there will be restrictions on what you can and can not print.

    For example what is to stop someone from making a fully functional gun, without a licence? While this is fun and exciting to see, and it also a little scary.

  9. I don’t think that you can make a full functional gun with this printer. I think that this machine just offers you the ability to make a model of the item.

  10. 3D printers are just something that amazes me. Can we imagine what possibilities open to us in the long distance?

    The NASA is even researching for food printers. Yeah, right, they want machines for spaceships that build food out of a basic material which is mainly made by algae (at this point).

    Science fiction is coming to you!

    • At least those food are not made of people! I would welcome 3D printed food than Soylent Green, kthx.

      Seriously, it would be interesting how the tech for 3D printed food would progress. There’s many places in the world that can use more available food even if the prospect of eating 3D printed ones isn’t really appetizing.

    • Yes, I heard about this recently, Here is a overview from NASA’s Web site outlining their research project with “additive manufacturing,” which is what 3D printing is.

      http://www.nasa.gov/directorates/spacetech/home/feature_3d_food.html

      This is really fascinating. They are looking for ways to feed crew members in long-distance space travel. I am curious to see the outcome and the further developments from this. It is reminiscent of the Star Trek replicators. This is science fiction rapidly becoming science fact!

  11. This is really very interesting. I want to own one someday! Can this produce any object you’d want 3D-printed? Or does this one only apply to some, not-so-complicated objects?

  12. The 3D printer market is exploding right now! So many hobbyists and inventors are snatching these things up and cranking out some pretty cool ideas and toys with them. There is even talk among some larger companies about starting to provide 3D printer replacement parts, just find the part you need, buy a cheap layout and print the replacement at home! Not just these companies though, many start-ups want to start offering a great range of products to this effect. It is really going to change things for sure.

  13. We used to have these in school for our CAD classes and they were so cool! It seemed like they were so expensive and out of reach for the general consumer at the time. It’ll be fascinating to see how they take homes by storm in the future.

  14. I can’t wait for a 3d printer to be able to print itself. Now this sounds like science-fiction but I think it is what most fabricants are looking forward too. It seems to be the ultimate goal. As soon as you can print another printer with just a printer. Infinity has just taken form in the material world. I think that will happen in the next 10 years. Can’t wait!

  15. It would probably be nice to create a 3D printing business. Since they are not very common here in our country, it would be nice to put up a 3D printing business near a school with engineering, architecture and industrial design courses. It would also be great if it could print mini versions of people. I know this is possible but I believe you would need the capability to shoot a person and make a 3D model of him first. Technology is really amazing.

    • Those courses seem to be tailor-made to take advantage of 3D printing technology. I haven’t seen one offer that kind of services in my area but I’d imagine even regular people would be attracted to the idea of creating 3D models of various things. i wonder how much the start up cost would be to get a 3D printing business rolling.

    • But it would also be nice to have a couple million dollars. You are going to have a heavy investment to create a 3d printing business. They aren’t very common in any country, not just your country. I like the idea about printing 3d replicas of people. That is very creative!

  16. This is amazing, but will they really be affordable to the general public as the normal printers now a days are?

    If this actually becomes affordable consumer device then I’m pretty sure they’ll become really popular, especially to designers.

    • I was talking about 3D printing to a friend and he got excited as a cosplayer. It can be pretty nifty for robot parts or gadgets which might be challenging to make through conventional means. The 3D printers can get expensive but the service itself can be affordable, depending on the item you want printed.

    • No, it is not affordable to the general public in comparison to the cost of affordable normal printers. Give it ten years and it might be more mainstream. We are on the cutting edge of the technology. There might be affordable 3d printers that hit the market but they won’t have all of the capabilities that we have been reading about. They’ll be limited in their attributes.

  17. I too have been following 3D printing since I heard about it last year. 3D printers used to cost somewhere around $50,000 – $80,000, so its great that you can now get a basic one for a lot cheaper. 3D printing is great, I’m gonna get myself one once I can afford it!

    • Yes, the price of 3D printers is falling rapidly just as we knew it would. I was curious to see what the latest prices are and I did some searching around. I was amazed that you can buy them for less than $2000 and the most basic ones are just a few hundred dollars. And rental prices are low, too. I’ve seen $99 per month advertised. 3D printing is quickly evolving from a cool story to read about to actually glancing up from your computer and seeing one beside you.

      • But what can these cheap 3d printers produce at this point in the game? Probably not anything that is uber-useful. I think we are at least a year away from a moderately priced 3d printer that prints anything of significant value. Like those 3d printers that create food out of raw ingredients. That is probably at least a few years down the road unless you shell out thousands of dollars.

  18. I heard they started using or building DRM for 3D designs. Wonder how that would complicate 3D printing in the future or if it can be a deterrent to its wide use.

  19. The possibilities with 3D printing look to be endless. Is it capable of crafting tasty food from raw materials like flour, wheat, sugar, barley etc. It sure looks like it is capable of doing so. It makes me think of the machines in Star Trek that created out of thin air whatever food item that the crew ordered. How disturbing is it that these 3D printers have already printed out usable guns? Just look for it on youtube and you’ll see it in action.

  20. Well, simce the article has been aroundf or almost a year, a quick recap. 3D printers are now getting more affordable and easily usable.

    David has already put up a article about MakeVR which is basically, molding the 3D model with your own hands (joystick).

    And, yes. 3D modeling with people faces has been going around as well and also food printing. 🙂

    Anyway, its really entertaining to see article like this, its kinda like traveling the past and explaining what happened to the future. Anyway, still a good article. 🙂

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