bob.shomo, thanks for your comments. 3D printing began in 1988 as a rapid prototyping technology. That's now more than 20 years ago. So it does take time for a technology to become mainstream, but it depends a lot on the technology--or cluster of technologies--and other variables. The process rarely occurs at a steady pace. It's also the case that what's happening now is a very intense period of R&D that we haven't seen in this field for several decades, as shown by the Zeus and other innovations (stay tuned). And it's important to continue distinguishing between whether it will ever become mainstream for consumers--which is what all the hype is about--or whether the mainstream will be engineers and companies, which is what the more likely reality is about, and where most of the effort is going.
Deberah, I'm glad you liked the article. Don't forget that there's an entirely other set of materials--metals and ceramics--used in 3D printing and other forms of additive manufacturing. We've covered them extensively in Design News. That said, there's definitely a need for a wider range of materials that can be used with a given printer.
I can see a lot of very interesting possibilities for a package such as this one. BUT it is not clear that it would be that very durable, based on the pricing of a number of coordinate measuring systems presently on the market. Those machines cost several orders of magnitude more, and only provide a bunch of dimensional data. So it seems that either this package is a real breakthrough, or that the other devices may be a bit overpriced.
But the applications for being able to reproduce a model that is a close dimensionable representation of the original, at some distant point, is certainly a sort of game changing thing. Now it would be possible to send a supplier a model so that there would be very little chance of misreading a drawing. And that is just one immediate potential use.
@Bob, I agree. I visited a local manufacturer of hand-held devices. They are contoured to be held in the hand and thus, are difficult to fixture when assembling. The engineers use 3D solid modeling software and their 3D printers to make fixtures for assembly. They can run off a half a dozen in a few hours and if they break, print off some more. The cost is insignificant compared to having a more permanent fixture designed and built.
Their use of 3D printing was not the use intended by the manufacturer of it but never the less, when you have the equipment in-house, you find other ways of making it pay off.
I think the device highlighted in this article will be used in ways most of us would not think of.
I thought all of these machines separately were impressive enough--all in one is quite something else altogether! I'm surprised how rapidly the evolution of products in this space is moving. But it's great for people who can afford these products and are into this sort of thing.
I would like to submit that the judgements about 3D printing I see here are premature. My experience is that it takes about 20 years for a technology to truly become mainstream. I have seen this happen time and time again over a 37 year technology-dominated career.
Like most radically new technologies, there is an incubation period during which many "unintended" uses for the new technology are identified. I call it the "law of unintended consequences". Often it is the "unintended" consequences that come to dominate the application of the technology. The internet provides an outstanding example of this. The original developers never dreamed of the applications that have come to dominate internet technology. They never dreamed of how fundamentally the internet would change the world we live in. I also remember reading and hearing about how the internet would never become ubiquitous - there was no need of it, it was too complicated for the average person to understand, it was far too expensive beause there was no infrastructure in place that could accommodate it, etc. I takes time for any new technology to become part of mainstream life. Part of the reason for this is the typical learning curve and optimization that any technology goes through. A major reason, however, is that it takes time for any technology to gather more and more applications as people start to really understand the potential of a technology to solve their particular problem. 3D printing is still not mainstream, in the sense that most people do not understand how the technology works, or what problems it can solve. I expect this to change rapidly in the next 5 years or so as more and more industrial and consumer printers find there way into the market. Once the number of machines being used in both industrial and consumer applications hits critical mass, you will see new and exciting uses for this extremely flexible technology - which I predict will enable it to become a mainstream technology with impact only slightly less than the internet.
Give it some time for the cost of the equipment to come down, the quality and ease of use to increase, and for people to think about what it can be used for!
Limited Material is one of the issue of 3d printing although technology is a breakthrough but still material used is very limited . Usually people use plastic and different forms of plastic but every thing cant just rely on plastic adding different materials to the technology will result in higher costs. Initially 3d printing was used only for prototypes that is making test structures in those structures accuracy is very important because on the basis of those structures engineers decide to take final decisions but still there are certain accuracy issues in it . Size limitation is also one of the major factor , practically its easy to use small size printers that easily fits your desktops however to manufacture large objects we need large printers that result in increased cost as well
The main reason of mentioning above issues is not to point out something but to realize that with every technology there are advantages, disadvantages and limitations.
Thanks Ann for posting such an informative thing its really great that technology is going so ahead that a 3D printer with a copiers, fax machine and scan is all in one machine but to some extend jhankwitz i agree to you that spending soo much on 3D printed item is it worthfull or not . Because according to me no doubt 3D printing is becomming very popular but to some extend there can be certain limitation in its usage for example in development of large projects and so on. 3D printing will never be eradicated however in future it can become the want of people instead of becomming the need as there is a vast difference between want and need .
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