Thanks for the additional information, Cabe. The article on Social Network for 3D Printers was very interesting. It would be really cool to see Office Depot down the street offer this service as part of their print center and maybe in a few years they will.
You do not have to be a machinist to work a 3D printer. Though, understanding how the printer work completely will not be avoided. If you need to make a lot of parts, prototypes, etc, then getting one will pay for itself. However, like Greg said, you can always have someone else make one.
Thanks for the great information, Greg - I will definitely look into it. Sounds like it could be a lot of fun. There are so many possibilities...I have a lot of projects in my head that I never thought it would be cost-effective to pursue...this could change my mind!
Nancy, I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how affordable and easy to use 3rd party 3D printering services are today. One of these services, www.redeyeondemand.com allows you to just upload your .STL file to their website and automatically generates a quote on the spot. After purchasing with a credit card, it starts the printing job and a few days later, you receive the part in the mail. Efficient (and even fun) to use.
I'd heard of 3D printed partial skull plates, but none this large. Thanks for covering this, Cabe. Here's an entire, artistic 3D printed skull : http://www.ahalife.com/product/1946/3d-printed-filigree-skull/
Many companies now, including mine, have a 3D printer on site. An engineer or a designer will typically send their designs to the machine in the morning and have the parts in the afternoon (or maybe the next day if it is a large/complicated part). This really accelerates development and test cycles from weeks to even days or hours and is a very effective development tool.
The price of 3D printers has been lowered dramatically, so these systems can be within financial reach now. When selecting a 3D printer, it is also important to choose one that has simple operation (so that everyone in the department can run the machine, rather than having a specialized technician only).
Thanks for your observation, Greg. The company I worked for typically lagged 3-7 years behind current technology so we did a lot of making do with what we had. I can see that if we could prove the cost-effectiveness of 3D printing and the increased speed to market that we possibly could have sold the idea of investing in one to management - especially since we had a full department dedicated to CAD.
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Biomimicry has already found its way into the development of robots and new materials, with researchers studying animals and nature to come up with new innovations. Now thanks to researchers in Boston, biomimicry could even inform the future of electrical networks for next-generation displays.
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