gsmith120, I have actually seen a demo. The students did an interesting thing. They made the device out of plexiglass so you could see what was going on inside. They actually make the image from the bottom up. The interesting thing is the process. They use a regular projector, like one you would project your PC slides with. In fact, what they do is project a PowerPoint presentation on material. The background is black. The part image is what will be cured for that slice. Each slide represents a very thin slice. So, part of their project was going from the CAD drawing to the images for the slices. The electronics in the device coordinate all this. It is a small device (it was a student Project Lead the Way project). They showed us basketball hoop (with backboard and pole) and a model of the school as examples of what they had done. It was all very interesting.
Developments in materials have made a big difference in driving forward the 3D trend, as we've covered at DN: http://www.designnews.com/document.asp?doc_id=237571 http://www.designnews.com/document.asp?doc_id=236261 I don't think it's going to remain on the sidelines much longer, although I'm not how long cloning kittens will take...
Beth, yes the cost is coming down. Our school district bought one for our STEM program. I think it cost about $30K. What is interesting is that one of the student projects this year is a 3D printer. Yes, the students made one of their own. It is intersting to see how it works.
Hey Rich. I believe it. I read they print in .007" layers. I am not sure what that adds up to in total tolerances, but being an ex-machinist I do know that a lot of "common" parts were +-0.010"...so that's 0.020" range. If they can hold that...very cool!
I think part of what is happening is that people are finally understanding the concept of 3D printing, thus are able to see all the different possibilities for applications, from early concepting to full production prototypes. Just a few years back, the costs for this technology were so high, it was really relegated to specific pockets in an organization and it didn't have much exposure beyond that small cadre of users. Also, without actually seeing the technology at work, it's really hard to conceptualize how you print a physical object. I agree with you, Rich, once you see the possibilities, it's pretty amazing.
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