Thanks for the history lesson, Chuck. I've been wondering where this techology came from. It seemed like it popped out of nowhere. As well as being an attractive name, 3D printing clearly describes the object's function.
Good news, whic is that those expensive spools of plastic are not at all the only way to print with plastic. A mechanisation quite similar to a hot glue gun can dispense small drops of molten plastic, which can be from ordinary regrind plastic. LOts cheaper and available in a whole lot more places. And the mechanism may even be simpler than the feed for the plastic string stock. The main downside is needing to reload a bit more often. But extruding drops of melted regrind is a great way to make things indeed.
Yes, 3D printing has been around a while. Part of the recent explosion in interest in it stems from the name -- 3D printing. I wrote about stereolithography 20 years ago and there wasn't much interest in it. Similarly, the use of the terms "selective laser sintering" and "fused deposition modeling" didn't send anyone's heart racing, either. But the name "3D printer" captured the public's interest, and captured the interest of the mainstream press, even though many "3D printers" don't look like printers at all. The clever name will ultimately allow the world to consider it long enough to see the amazing things a that an FDM machine or SLS machine can do.
I think the prosthetic hand points to the future. Imagine if stem cells taken from your body could be grown and printed to form a new replacement body part that was genetically the same as the owner. There would be no rejection issues. I believe this will happen, just a matter of time.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.