The 3-D printing revolution is coming and soon you’ll be able to manufacture what you want at home with the touch of a button.
The name 3-D printing is really misleading. It’s more like 3-D manufacturing. A 3-D printer is a machine that instead of making a photocopy of a piece of paper actually makes an item by creating it layer by layer out of plastic, metal, or other material.
But even if you don’t have your own 3-D printer yet, several online marketplaces have emerged that will let you bring your ideas for projects to life. Among them you have ShapeWays.com, I.Materialise.com, and Cubify.com.
I’m predicting that within the next 2 to 4 years, it will be very common to have your own unit at home. A company called MakerBot already offers a “rapid prototyping” machine (starting at $750) that’s pleasingly small. The MakerBot version lets you design and create almost anything on a small scale using ABS plastic in the comfort of your own home. PrintrBot is another company that offers 3-D printers from $399 to $699.
With permission of photographer Eric Deren, I’ve linked over to his YouTube video, MakerBot Replicator Motion Control Time Lapse Test. In it, you can see a 12-second time-lapse clip that shows Eric’s machine making an intricate vase in about 2 hours.
Eric has also made a lens caps for his old camera gear with his 3-D printer. “[Recently] I printed my first practical measure/design/build project on my MakerBot: I made front and back lens caps for a 50-year-old 25mm Switar C-mount lens from my Bolex turret.” It took him 45 minutes from start to finish. “I think I can get used to this rapid prototyping process,” the Georgia resident wrote online.