20 years ago we had revolution in the world of print. Where once it was complicated and expensive to design and produce a printed page, tools like Adobe Pagemaker and laser printers made it easy. The world of design and ad agencies would be a very different place today without these technologies.
A shift of a similar scale is happening now.
This new shift is called Desktop Fabrication or Desktop Fab for short. Using 3D printers, laser cutters, and cheap microprocessors, people are redefining how things are made.
While these tools are still relatively complex to use, the cost of prototyping or even manufacturing an object is dropping rapidly and communities are working hard to make Desktop Fab available to the masses.
The State of Desktop Fab today
For example some of these printers can have both stiff and bendable plastics in the same object. Some in the 3D community say that mixed material printing will be like the difference between black and white and Color TV.
3D Service Bureaus
Shapeways and Ponoko are two companies that allow you to upload your 3D designs from CAD programs and get them printed in different materials. These services are relatively inexpensive compared to buying and owning your own 3D printing machines. Both of these services also allow shape designers to share designs that people want to print and take a cut of the profit.
For example this “Deathly Hallows” necklace is available on Shapeways. This also raises the issue of 3D piracy as this object is most likely not licensed officially from the Harry Potter IP holders.
Affordable 3D printing
The MakerBot ThingOmatic is a relatively inexpensive 3D printer kit ($1200) that has ignited the desktop fabrication movement from the bottom up. Over four thousand ThingOmatic kits have been sold over the last several years.
While the resolution of prints from the ThinkOmatic are fairly rough, it has proven to be a valuable tool to professionals and hobbyists alike.
What are some practical applications of 3D printing?
Why travel to the hardware store for a specific wrench
or throw away a perfectly good lamp that just needs a part?.
Just print it.