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Images courtesy The New York Times
Desktop Factory to introduce 3D printer for $4,995 USD

3D printers have been around for industrial use roughly a decade, but they have been matched with outrageous price tags. The first models to hit the market were priced at about the same as a fully loaded Mercedes S-Class, while models today can be bought for about the price of a Honda Civic. The price erosion is expected to continue in the next few years with prices dropping below $5,000 USD by the end of 2007.

3D printers are already in use by doctors, dentists, architects and even the U.S. military. The high price tags of existing 3D printers may have not been a turn-off for the aforementioned group, but was completely out of reach for consumers.

Desktop Factory -- a company founded by IdeaLab --  is aiming to bring to market a consumer-oriented 3D printer this year for $4,995 USD while the cost of materials is expected to be $0.50 per cubic inch. "We are Easy-Bake Ovening a 3-D model," said IdeaLab chairman Bill Gross.

The Desktop Factory 3D will build models layer by layer from bottom to top. The models are constructed using nylon which is mixed with aluminum and glass and then hardened by heat. The Desktop Factory 3D printer will measure 25" x 20" x 20" and weighs less than 90 pounds. It can build 3D models up to 5" x 5" x 5" constructed of layers 0.010" thick.

"In the future, everyone will have a printer like this at home," Cornell University Professor Hod Lipson. "You can imagine printing a toothbrush, a fork, a shoe. Who knows where it will go from here?"

The possibilities are endless for the consumer according to Desktop Factory director of sales Joe Shenberger. "You could go to Mattel.com, download Barbie, scan your Mom’s head, slap the head on Barbie and print it out," said Shenberger. "You could have a true custom one-off toy."

"When laser printers cost more than $5,000, nobody knew they needed desktop publishing," added A. Michael Berman, CTO for Pasadena's Art Center College of Design. "The market for 3-D printing isn’t as big as for laser printers, but I do believe it is huge."



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sweet!
By Moishe on 5/8/2007 2:24:42 PM , Rating: 2
Now all those old folks can print out their own lawn animals!

This will definitely reduce prototyping costs for small businesses. I want one... but I dunno what I'd print with it.




RE: sweet!
By GaryJohnson on 5/8/2007 3:13:43 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I dunno what I'd print with it


Widgets and doodads of course.


RE: sweet!
By BladeVenom on 5/8/2007 6:12:03 PM , Rating: 2
Replacement parts is the first thing that comes to mind. How about custom grips for your mouse mouse and joystick. Models and toys would also be a popular use. Right now they are heavily used for making prototypes.


RE: sweet!
By JeffDM on 5/14/2007 9:02:43 PM , Rating: 2
It's still a slow process, as noted, and it is very rough. Making it finer makes it slower. I asked one company that sells them and they said something like five hours for a one cubic inch part. I think the biggest expense is the laser, and I haven't heard that the high power lasers are getting significantly cheaper yet.

Except for prototyping products for mass production, I just don't see $5k being worth it. The time it takes is a major expense, it might be free and it might be hard for a business to justify its operation, I think there is a lot of power consumed too. A small business probably wouldn't be able to justify it unless they are a rapid prototying business. A hobbyist might get one if they are good at designing objects, but making it pay is a tough thing unless you can charge a very high price for it. If you make a mistake though, expect another day's worth of operation making a new part. It won't make fine details either because they are still pretty rough, the model shops set aside a lot of time sanding and filling too, the hobbyist may just as well sand a block of plastic instead.


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