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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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Changes to how things are done
By Kevinmc1953 on 5/17/2007 12:51:40 PM , Rating: 2
9nails is closest to really grasping the impact of this. It is another extension of VCR's, laser printers and IPods.

Past methods of manufacturing and distribition will continue to evolve. We used to go to theaters for movies, print shops for hard copy printing, and music shops to acquire music. We now play and produce our own video, hardcopy and music. Those whose business was the physical manufacturing and distribution have seen their marketplace change. When this technology gets large, with more diverse materials, it will indeed become the manufacturing center for local, on-demand distributed creation of material products. If you have wondered how the Star Trek food system created food on demand, just understand that edible proteins will eventually be one of the components of a machine like this.

Don't constrain your thinking to parochial constraints of time and materials... the future of change will continue!




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