@Ann – All technology comes at a high price most of the time, later when there is competition in the market the manufacturers are forced to bring down the prices for the product to survive in the market.
Yes, but...prices coming down as volumes go up doesn't usually happen as fast in the industrial/commercial sector as it does in consumer products, and especially as it does in electronics. We've have all been trained to think in terms of high-volume consumer electronics, and that model simply doesn't apply to non-electronic, non-consumer products, technologies and markets.
Aside from where the technology came from, the other big difference here is the materials. This is metals, not plastics. They are not made for consumer applications, not likely available in small quantities, and sure as heck aren't cheap.
This isn't the start of a trend, in the true definition of the word. I've mentioned here before that MIT is working on digitizing materials and assemblage as the next generation of AM and 3D technology.
It's a progression of a much larger trend. How soon will we be able to say "Tea, Earl Grey hot" in a posh British accent and have it appear? I don't know....
(I'm pretty sure that EVERYONE here gets the Star Trek reference)
The possible trend I asked a rhetorical question about was very specific: whether makers of high-end, industrial metals 3D printing machines would release smaller, simpler versions for universities, as this company has. Whether they will or not--and whether this therefore becomes a trend--remains to be seen. Regarding MIT's work, the link you gave goes to another comment you made, but not to MIT's work. Can you give us links to their work?
When the only fast modeling choice was SLAs and the equipment to do them was expensive, service companies jumped in.
When more technologies came along (SLS, etc.) they upgraded first and offered more services.
There surely is a spot where the same companies offering proto plastic parts etc. will jump in and offer metal parts, before the use of the machines becomes widespread.
We are a long way from an SLS printer on every desktop, so there is plenty of room in the market.
I've been critical of all the loose uses of definitions of 3D printing to the point it has become an overused buzz term. Trade press has glorified misguided attempts to "go to production" becuase everyone is so excited. Well, printing Ti that is as good or better than a cast and annealed part makes it for real. There are definitely applications for either proof of design, early entry into validation (think of all the things you need to validate in automotive or aerospace that require "production intent" parts), or one or a few offs (say, F1 race teams, satellite builders, the LHC, etc.--big budget, only need 1 or 10, would like to be able to change late, etc.).
This one has my vote--the price will be determined by the market.
eafpres, thanks for your comments. I agree, SLS printers for metals (there are also versions used with plastics) will not be available anytime soon for small jobs and prototyping. That said, I reported this precisely because it shows that metal production parts are possible and actually being achieved, something that many people don't yet believe, probably because they think 3D printing means applications like making your own plastic jewelry.
A new compression molding compound material combines the light weight, strength, and rigidity of carbon fibers with the flexibility and lower cost of glass materials in a composite compatible with automotive production.
Plastic bearings are real and millions of them are in use doing heavy-duty jobs we used to think only metals could do. Some of Germany-based igus's bearings are traveling around the world as functional parts in a car to demonstrate what they can do.
Baxter showed off his 2.0-derived moves at ATX West this year. The big red guy still looks pretty much the same, but has some new abilities, mostly due to software. The research robot version is now being used in corporate R&D departments as a design platform.
End-production using 3D printing, including objects made of multiple materials in one pass, is getting closer to reality as we saw on the exhibit floor at the recent Pacific Design & Manufacturing Show.