I too have seen a lot of this 3D printing lately. I read an article about a larger unit that could "print" a house, well sort of. Just Google "print-a-house", it is a project at USC supported by Caterpillar. I am thinking that as the cost of the printers comes down various services will proliferate that will print the design for you if you don't have your own printer as you mentioned. The advent of readily available and easy to use software for designing the items will accelerate this tend even more.
I have used Google sketchup but it has been a long time since I worked with the more upscale tools. If someone links a free adn easy to use tool like sketchup to a 3D printing service it will definitely be a boost in this trend. I can see this being combined with other prototyping tools like the Arduino tools to be able to create much better working designs and prototypes.
Printing a house is pretty cool. We did a story on Design News about KOR EcoLogic, a company using 3D printing to produce a prototype of a car. I'm sure there are mounting examples of 3D printing used in ways unimaginable before.
Dassault Systèmes proposes a free design tool called 3DVIA Shape (http://www.3dvia.com/products/3dvia-shape/), directly connected to 3DVIA.com where 3D designs and prototypes can be stored, used in 3D experiences and/or sent to 3D print. It's pretty much a 3-clicks process. Your feedback would be most welcome.
The new 3D printers are pretty cool. We use them for prototyping at my company. The 3D components can be assembled and actually function. I hear that the next step is using powered metals to produce components. I can't wait to test these out.
Thanks for your feedback, Timmmy49. I've also heard about the evolution of materials that can be used in these devices--pretty exciting, indeed. How do you see something like powdered metals changing or improving the way you're already deploying 3D printers for prototyping? Do you see being able to actually produce parts more cheaply?
I believe that someday the 3D printers will be able to produce metal components that will use for production.If (when) this happens, you will see more optimized, light weight, cost efficient products.There is no machining, so money will be saved on tooling, fixturing, and setup time.I work in the aerospace industry and we are already talking on how we could implement this technology into our design phase.I can’t wait to see where this technology goes.
It's true, 3D printing is going to change our everyday life. From classrooms to office environments around the world, 3D printers are becoming an important part of our society.
The 3D printer company I like is 2BOT. They manufacture the ModelMaker, which is user friendly and easy - students have no challengese printing with it. Plus, the materials the ModelMaker uses are inexpensive when compared to other companies.
There are many companies in the race to become the top player of the market. I believe 2BOT is one of those players. They are an alternative to other 3D printers available.
I have been in classrooms where teachers have used the ModelMaker and 3D models with their lesson plans. For example, a 6th grade history teacher in Kansas had her students design the pryamids of Giza, the Great Wall of China, etc on Google SketchUp and then printed the models on the 3D printer. The kids were very excited to have their models become a reality.
@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.
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!
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.