These days inkjet and laser printers are present almost everywhere at home and office. These are great to print your documents, travel tickets and photographs. How about printing out your next Mobile’s case using a printer? Technology for this is available today, 3D Printing. Of course you can’t use that inkjet printer and paper at home to do that unless you’re an Origami expert.
3D printers were used earlier, and now, in the manufacturing industry to quickly create prototypes of products to try out before sending a product for mass-manufacturing. This helped designers conceptualise the product and show it around for feedback. It’s easier to give feedback about a product when you can touch and feel it, instead of imagining the it based on an image on screen.
The cost of a 3D printer is still not reached a level where you can go out an pick one up from the nearest store. Printers like the Relicator 2 from MakerBot sells for more than $2000, while a Kickstarter project Printerbot has a cheaper set for $549. These 3D printers make objects based on an additive technique. In this technique, objects are created layer by layer, each layer made using a molten material or thermosets.
Even if you can afford to buy one of these printers, you’ll need some knowledge of a 3D design software to create the 3D models required to print. The STL file format seems to be the most widely supported format for 3D printers these days. Meshlabs and Blender can be used to generate 3D models and save in this format. Once the file is loaded into the 3D printer, the actual printing process could take hours to “print” out, depending on the size and complexity of your design.
People are already printing out quite surprising items using 3D printers these days, how about a custom 3D printed Guitar, or a cycle and jewelry? How about a MP3 player which looks like a Cassette which is printed? If you don’t want to own a printer, there are online services, like Sculpteo and i materialize, opening up allowing you to upload your creations there and have them print, ship and even sell your creations for you.
With all these avenues, hobbyists and enthusiasts have already taken off on the 3D printing revolution. The technology is still quite a while away from being something every one would use at home, but lower costs and easier accessibility though online services or neighbourhood printing stores, it’s something you can take a stab at to make that unique creation you can boast about.
Tempted to try out 3D printing yet? Ok, 3D printing not as easy as printing that document on your home or office printer. It takes some work to get your very own personalized work of art printed using a 3D printer. To give you an idea of what it takes, take a peek at this video from Sharon Vaknik at CNet showing how she prints a customized iPhone case using a 3D printer.
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