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.
-- 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
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
"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
"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."
quote: What is RepRap?RepRap is short for Replicating Rapid-prototyper. It is a practical self-copying 3D printer.The RepRap project became widely known after a large press coverage in March 2005, though the idea goes back to a paper on the web written by Adrian Bowyer on 2 February 2004.RepRap will make plastic, ceramic, or metal parts, and is itself made from plastic parts, so it will be able to make copies of itself. It is a three-axis robot that moves several material extruders. These extruders produce fine filaments of their working material with a paste-like consistency. If RepRap were making a plastic cone, it would use its plastic extruder to lay down a quickly-hardening 0.5mm filament of molten plastic, drawing a filled-in disc. It would then raise the plastic extrusion head and draw the next layer (a smaller filled disc) on top of the first, repeating the process until it completed the cone. To make an inverted cone it would also lay down a support material under the overhanging parts. The support would be removed when the cone was complete. Conductors can be intermixed with the plastic to form electronic circuits - in 3D even!The RepRap build cost will be less than $400 US for the bought-in materials, all of which have been selected to be as widely available everywhere in the world as possible. Also, the RepRap software will work on all computer platforms for free. Complete open-source instructions and plans are published on this website for zero cost and available to everyone so, if you want to make one yourself, you can.We hope to announce self-replication in 2008.