Through my workplaces, I have been fortunate to have access to 3d printing for the last 15 years, from the very early edition, very expensive SLS machines in the aerospace industry to consumer product development with low-cost FDM machines manufactured by Stratasys (made in the USA). I love this technology so much that even after moving to another company I lobbied the benefits of the FDM machine and got another one purchased for the mechanical design team. The cost of this technology keeps coming down. The first machine I purchased was $30K and the most recent was $18K. The benefits of evaluating fit, form and function with an overnight build of parts in your own office are priceless!
@bcarlson: Thanks so much for sharing. Great to see first hand how this kind of technology helps in the classroom, but also to see how the hands-on approach makes for enthusiastic students and one heck of a teacher! Exposing students at such an early age to 3D printing technology is somewhat of a mindblower. It will end up being no different or no more unique for them than a computer or cell phone is today.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.