Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship "Enterprise". Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before. Do these words sound familiar? Well, today man has gone where no man has gone before. On the star ship Enterprise, there is a device known as a “replicator.” The concept was to have a 23rd century technology that could replicate anything by reconstituting raw material into the object desired.
A 3D Printing Primer
To science fiction writers this was just a dream, but if we look at most of our technology today, we first learned about these wondrous ideas from science fiction writers, such as Jules Verne. I remember reading about moving sidewalks and doors that automatically opened as you approached them when I was growing up. Today, we take this technology for granted.
CNC universal milling machine
Additive manufacturing takes virtual designs from CAD drawings or modeling software and transforms them into thin, virtual horizontal cross-sections and creates successive layers until the object is completed. In this process, the virtual object and the original item are almost identical.
3Dsystems Zprinter® 150
SLS using powder sinter
Stereolithography 3D printing process
3D Systems’ products and services are utilized by a wide variety of industries; from automotive, aerospace and defense to Consumer Goods, architecture, medical and dental devices, plus numerous other industries for fast, precise design communication and prototyping as well as for the production of functional end-use parts.
Z-Corp 3D Color Print
Three-dimensional printing technology is being used to create medical implants; jewelry; football boots designed for an individual’s foot; lampshades; racing-car parts; solid-state batteries, and customized mobile phones. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Peter Schmitt, a PhD student, has been printing something that resembles the workings of a grandfather clock. It took him a few attempts to get it right, but eventually he removed the plastic clock from a 3D printer, hung it on the wall and pulled down the counterweight. It started ticking.
3D printers are being used to develop plastic prototypes that are durable and depending on the material, flexible, thus eliminating the expense of creating and injecting molds. Hinges, snap fit components, functioning springs, as well as prototypes that can be drilled and tapped can be modeled.
Because of 3D printing technology, we could see a return of overseas manufacturing to the U.S. Manufacturing will become incredibly cheap. In the future, we will see the manufacture of human replacement organs, glassware, toys and even house parts. Anything that can be conceived and converted by scanning or CAD drawings can be made.
Suppose you break a cabinet handle and need a replacement. You will not have to wait for the manufacturer to mail a replacement to you, or take that drive to the hardware store in hopes of finding a matching handle. You just log on to the manufacturers website, download a 3D file of the handle and print it yourself. Stratasys is contemplating making an inexpensive toy that would let kids manufacture objects of their own design, said Jon Cobb, a vice-president at the company. About 40 percent of Stratasys’s sales currently come from schools and colleges, which use the gear to teach science.
Remember the Easy Bake oven?
The market for 3D printer toys alone could be worth $10 billion a year—many times more than the existing 3D printing market. Total 3D printing sales are expected to reach $3 billion by 2016, up from $1.4 billion in 2011, according to Los Angeles-based research firm IBISWorld. The market could end up being larger if new applications, such as toys take off.
3D Systems is coming out with its first consumer 3D printer, named “the Cube.” It is expected to sell for $1,299.00, and be out-of-the-box ready to use. Color 3D creations can be made at home. The printer weighs only nine pounds and comes with a color easy-load cartridge. The consumer will also receive 50 printable creations. Instead of sitting in front of the gaming console, our kids will be making toys and other unimaginable creations.
A 3D Systems competitor, Makerbot, notes that its Replicator™ is advanced enough to build most of the components necessary to reproduce itself. The Makerbot unit will sell for $1,749.00 for one color and $1,949.00 for two colors. The Replicator has a touch screen LCD, and has game-like controllers to allow the user the ability to control the printer without a computer. Using the controller, models can be made from information on SD cards.
Casio is experimenting with a 3D printer that can take a 2D photograph, extrapolate a 3D image from the photo and print a three-dimensional version. The image stands out from the background, giving the appearance of depth. This might not be the same process as other 3D printers, but could be interesting if Casio goes forward.
3D Systems has created Cubify,™ a web site where you can create 3D models, using a mobile device, tablet or Kinects into a digital canvas. The site has libraries of items that can be created on your 3D printer. You can design and create your own projects or use an existing App.
Check out the following video to see this amazing technology in use:
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