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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, 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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By jay401 on 5/8/2007 2:47:32 PM , Rating: 2
I'm ignorant of the concept... is this thing able to manipulate a piece of paper like origami and shape it into things in addition to coloring it in? Or do you stick an object inside it and it "paints" it for you?

*scratches head*

RE: help
By darkpaw on 5/8/2007 2:52:45 PM , Rating: 1
Think of it more like sculpting. You put in the raw material and provide a 3d model (autocad or whatever format it takes) and it carves it for your. At least thats how the one I've seen works. Its mostly for prototyping purposes atm.

RE: help
By jay401 on 5/8/2007 4:01:35 PM , Rating: 2
ohhh okay cool so it's sorta like those big CNC lathing machines they use to make aluminum wheels and such. Cool.
The term "printer" is sorta misleading.

RE: help
By glennpratt on 5/8/2007 7:07:08 PM , Rating: 4
The term "printer" is sorta misleading.

No, it isn't. This doesn't sculpt, it builds using a laser moving over the raw material - not unlike an ink jet print head, some even have ink jets for coloring - and building an object one thin layer at a time, from the bottom up. A layer is built, more material is spread over it, then a layer is built. When it's done you have an object buried in raw material.

Here's an example:

RE: help
By Justin Case on 5/8/2007 7:37:15 PM , Rating: 3
No, it's not. There's no sculpting involved. The material (ex., a plastic powder) is hardened one "slice" at a time, sort of like a 3D bitmap (made from a 3D model).

It's really a lot like a printer with "thick" ink.

This kind of device is also used for industrial "fast prototyping", but it's not the same as a CNC lathe.

RE: help
By Shoal07 on 5/8/2007 2:59:00 PM , Rating: 2
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.

Did you read the article?

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