Rapid prototyping and 3D printing have been on my mind for a number or years, my first exposure to the technology was in college when some graduates students and a professor demoed what would go on to become an award winning board game, Khet. Seeing first hand the ease with which a new component could be made was fascinating. Prior to the demonstration my belief was that every component for a prototype would have to be hand made, either machined, sculpted, or otherwise fabricated. The possibilities provided by, and the speed of 3D printing have since fascinated me.
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It seems my admiration for rapid prototyping puts me in good company, recently I wrote about the popularity of 3D printing, and how it has been mentioned with increasing regularity in main stream media. The graphs showing a marked increase of search volume of course are backed by a number of articles about the new technology but what continues to intrigue is the expanding uses for on demand prototyping. So what are these articles and searches turning up? Below are the highlights of a few that have piqued my interest.
This is a small group out of the UK that will make on demand dolls. MakieLab recently recieved signifcant VC funding and have been shipping the dolls now for a few months. As a member of the toy industry it is always exciting to see the way that others are delivering unique play experiences and products.
Combining plastic 3D Printing with Printed Electronics:
It’s not just plastics and resins that can be printed. All sorts of materials are now an option, ranging from candy to tool steel. One of the most interesting possibilities is printed electronics. If an object can be printed in three dimensions why can’t it be combined with printed electronic components in the same build to really produce something cool. Forbes ran a quick piece looking at a partnership that printed a unmanned flying vehicle.
MakerBot at MakerFaire:
If you are an engineer (or in general a reader of this blog) and have not heard of Maker Faire I suggest you do some Googling. The popular DIY/Engineering/Designers get together has been adding dates and upping attendance for a few years now. It’s no surprise that many of these semi-pro hobbyists have caught on to the 3D printing technology. Engadget ran an article following a handful of engineers given the ultimate tasks – make some robots do fun stuff simply because it’s fun and people will enjoy it.
The Legality of 3D Printing:
Of course with new technology comes exploitation of technology. 3D Printing offers a new and confusing layer to the IP conversation. What level of design does a designer really own, and where in the process does a replication become an illegal copy. Some of the other noted articles here make it easy for an inexperienced designer to reproduce the work of a seasoned veteran, or simply a product that they like. Wired cover the moral issues and implications of 3D printing in a recent article.
The first time 3DPrinting appeared on 3DEngr was after 2010 Solidworks World. At SWW2010 James Cameron spoke about the role printing played in the fictional world of Avatar. There were also a number of booths in the partner pavilion that were displaying a variety of 3D printing capabilities. With any luck there will be more coverage of 3D printing in the future, some of which may come from my own machine! Prices are coming down the question now is which device offers the most function for the best price, I am after all just a hobbyist. Suggestions on the best options are welcome in the comments.