Ann, like all in one printer and PC, 3D printing technology is also get integrating with other add on services like fax, copier, scanner etc. Thanks for the technology for enabling such things, but the question is when it will be available for common man use.
Ann, this 3D printing is interesting, but I wonder if it is a wave that has already broken. As far as home use, I find that we seldom use our printer. I am also buying more on-line books for both personal use, work and school. I discovered long ago that I did not need a music device. Between my PC and phone I had all I needed. One of the best things about digital information is the lack of weight. Once you have the device, the weight does not change as you add more stuff. So, I have lots of stuff. To give an example, I recently bought a tutorial on a programming language I have been using. As I did I was presented with an ad for the complete Shakespeare for $1.99. I have two hard copies, but I bought this one anyway.
As for 3D printing, this current generation of "home" devices is just a novelty. We have lots of Mold-A-Rama stuff around the house. The museums around here all seem to have the machines. My wife keeps trying to get rid of them, but I always retrieve them. There is a place for 3D printing, but this might not be one.
It's fun reading and seeing all the hype on 3D printers, but it always leaves me wondering where the value lies. Do these 3D objects provide something that's worth the cost to produce them? Seeing a little kid send a duplicate of a clay snowman to his dad at work is cute and it triggers emotion, but how much did the two machines cost? How much did the material on the duplicate snowman cost? How does this cost compare to dad going home and holding the original snowman? These presentations never include the full cost of making a reproduction, so you can't determine the value. I can't see this market growing significantly until they start showing actual real value.
Lou, I disagree entirely. I know some people are feeling overwhelmed with the 3D printing "craze" and think it's just a fad. It's not. And home usage simply is not where the main changes will be, although that's where much of the press focuses. There are combinations of technologies and functions coming--like this for instance--that at least have the potential to change everything in manufacturing. I've been writing about technology for 25 years. I haven't seen anything this major since wireless communications in the 90s and before that, the internet.
jhankwitz, you've spelled out a major problem, one that Lou alludes to. The problem is, the real value is to manufacturers, not to consumers, but most of the press about 3D printing is consumer-oriented. I suspect this is mostly because most of it's being written by people not familiar with any of the technology, or with the entire world of industrial manufacturing. And all they can conceive of are the examples you mention.
It would be nice to see one article showing how 3D printing has provided a viable cost-effective component for a manufacturer. If any of these devices have been sold to an actual manufacturer, they should be able to get endorcements showing their benefits. If they can't, that may be why we don't see any of these articles.
jhankwitz, your conclusion is incorrect, apparently based on a misunderstanding. The reason there aren't any such articles yet isn't for want of trying. It's because so many companies don't want to talk about what they're doing to get a leg up over the competition. It's especially a problem in the very industries that *are* using 3D printing/AM for component production, specifically aerospace. For example, in this article http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=258652 mentioning Lockheed and it use of AM for F-35 parts, I managed to get a photo but not detailed identifying info about what the object is, for exactly that reason. This is an ongoing problem across multiple technologies and industries.
I've said this before and I'll say it again: I could see a market for toy manufacturers here. I recall my kids playing with plastic action figures (specifically, Ghostbusters toys) that routinely got lost. I could imagine a toy manufacturers selling the action figure product as software to a consumer who wants to keep building new toys to replace the Ghostbusters that got lost in the daily shuffle. There must be thousands of action figure products at places like Toys R Us that could use this business model.
I can see this system being used to reverse engineer older, non-CAD designs for a company's older product lines. Many companies still have parts that are only on paper drawings or just in 2D CAD. By purchasing this system, not only can they scan in older design into 3D, but they can also reprint them out and test fit them again to make sure that they assemble (and work) properly.
Alcoa has unveiled a new manufacturing and materials technology for making aluminum sheet, aimed especially at automotive, industrial, and packaging applications. If all its claims are true, this is a major breakthrough, and may convince more automotive engineers to use aluminum.
NASA has just installed a giant robot to help in its research on composite aerospace materials, like those used for the Orion spacecraft. The agency wants to shave the time it takes to get composites through design, test, and manufacturing stages.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is working with architects Foster + Partners to test the possibility of using lunar regolith, or moon rocks, and 3D printing to make structures for use on the moon. A new video shows some cool animations of a hypothetical lunar mission that carries out this vision.
If there's one thing 3D printing's good for, it's customization. New Balance Athletic Shoe Company has begun using 3D printing to make customized spike plates for its running shoes made for members of its Team New Balance runners. They provide better traction and shave off a tiny bit of weight.
Two teams, one based in the US and one in Europe, have 3D printed space-worthy support structures for satellite antenna arrays. These aren't prototypes: they're fully functioning antenna supports that will operate while exposed to the harsh temperatures and radiation of outer space.
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