Friday, August 29, 2008

The Holy Grail For A Modern Inventor

When I was 22 I heard of a company just 3 hours south of me in Austin, Texas, which had just brought online a costly, (at the time,) but mainstream solution for "3D Prototyping"; termed, Sintering. My understanding was the technology had been revealed and formalized in a Thesis by a University of Texas graduate student and then licensed through DTM corporation, a subsidiary of B.F. Goodrich in the 1990's; who in turn set up an impressive facility right there in the originating town of Austin Texas.
(DTM merged with, 3D Systems in 2001

As an young, eager, aspiring inventor I saw no choice but to call the company's switchboard and ask to speak with anyone who might have the time to explain more about the technology. Keep in mind this was 18 years ago and you couldn't just "go online" and Google or Wikipedia desired knowledge. So I did it the old fashion way.

I was lucky; I not only received thorough information on the technology; I was also instructed how to export compatible 3D data set from my own personal computers into an IGES or STL format from my DOS based Microstation CAD software; providing 3D files compatible with their machines. In addition; (I assume the manager could interpret my enthusiasm;) he invited me to come take a tour of the facility any time I wished. I took him up on the offer the following week.

At the time to purchase a machine; capable of producing a 12" cubed prototype dimension, cost over $180,000! These incredible technologies are now becoming not only common place, but affordable; or should I say, inexpensive enough to be afforded by a much broader audience.

Desktop Factory's solution pictured below, can now be reserved for $4999. It is marketed to small companies and private inventors. (UPDATE: Desktop factory failed to gain necessary funding to complete their journey to market with this consumer product line.)

This video (below) demonstrates a more commercially viable solution, by, which actually "3D Prints" in color.

Update: One of the major players in todays 3D Printing products is "Objet"

There are now even a few publication and websites fully dedicated to the field of Rapid Prototyping; 3D Printing

We are now seing a growing trend of "Home Brew"3D printer kits, which offer a bit more rudimentary version of 3D printing, at a budget cost; in both the initial hardware and the printing materials they require.
The most popular version of these Home Brew devices is made by "Maker Bot".  They just released version 2 of their popular "Maker Bot" kit at the 2012 CES show in Las Vegas.
Update 2:
1.) Let’s all 3D print our houses, what could possibly go wrong? A USC professor is working on a means of using 3D technology to wholly disrupt the construction business.

2.) Stone Spray project uses 3D printer to build long-lasting, intricate sandcastles.Researchers have created a 3D printing robot that uses organic materials to build some truly stunning sandcastles.

3.) 3D-printed exoskeleton gives a little girl use of her arms (video)

4.) Students build 3D printer that fits into a briefcase. Technology is getting smarter by the day, and some gadgets are on their way to becoming more and more portable. Two students, Ilan Moyer and Nadya Peek, from the MIT CADLab and MIT Center for Bits and Atoms respectively have built a 3D printer that can fit into a briefcase.

5.) DIY: 3D printing a custom iPhone case. Sharon Vaknin dives into the world of 3D printing to find out what it takes to print a custom iPhone case.


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