2013: The Year of the 3D Printer

cubx-trio-basketball-pressThe 3D printer is making a huge splash at this year’s International Consumer Electronics Show, and for good reason. Although 3D printers have been around for many years, 2013 will be the year they become affordable for the common household. The wide range of creative possibilities and the lasting social impact of these devices are endless. Carl Howe, head of consumer research at Yankee Group, said it best when he referred to affordable 3D printers as “the democratization of manufacturing.”

MakerBot, 3D systems Corp, and Sculpteo are among seven companies that will be showing their latest 3D printers at CES. Today MakerBot unveiled their newest 3D printer described as the most advanced ever to be offered at a ‘home hobbyist’ price level. The Replicator 2X ($2799) has the distinction of printing with dual plastic extruders. Dual extruders can increase creative possibilities by allowing for dual-color printing, dissolvable support, and simultaneous dual printing.  It also makes varying densities, changes in physical and mechanical properties, and variable resolution feasible. 3D systems have created a cheaper and more aesthetically pleasing option with the Cube ($1299), as well as the CubeX for larger designs ($2499). The Cube was designed with the American family in mind.  It comes with user friendly software, Wi-Fi connection, a USB port, as well as several color options.  For people wanting the cheap option there is the Printbot Jr (one for $399 or two for $700). Creator Brook Drumm designed this printer with the idea that every school or home could afford to have one. Considering that 3D printers did cost tens of thousands of dollars only a few years ago, and designers now have household consumers in there crosshairs, Drumm’s vision may soon come to fruition.

16712801_H1017582The future implications that 3D printers have in regard to innovations with technology, design, and art are astounding.  Now everyone has the power to bring their imagination to life and improve it over and over again in an affordable way. At first everyone will be making customized phone cases and Raspberry Pi-to-gos. Eventually we will be designing and creating every kind of household item imaginable, and designs for items will be bought and printed rather than buying the items themselves. The University of Washington’s engineering department recently did something intriguing with their 3D printer by modifying it to build with melted down milk cartons. This raises the question; will we someday be saving all of our recyclable materials to feed our 3D printers? Who knows what’s to come, but everyone agrees that 3D printers are going to quickly change the world in which we live in.

Topics: Technology News CES - Consumer Electronics Show Gadgets & Peripherals Raspberry Pi

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