Disrupting how we make things


Business 2.0 recently listed The Next Disrupters – 15 companies that will change the world by rewriting how things are done. Ponoko’s not on there — yet — but another startup company, Desktop Factory, is. With a goal of making 3D printers as common as your laser printer in offices, schools and homes, this company is set to make a very affordable 3D printer at about $5,000, compared with the commercial ones out there that retail for $20,000 on up. That’s a big goal, considering so many people don’t even know what 3D printers are. I’d say only in the past couple years has rapid prototyping been making mainstream news. Until recently 3D printers were so expensive and out-of-reach – reserved only for large companies and manufacturers with deep pockets – examples given were Boeing and Logitech, costing upwards of 100K+ ten years ago. Now we’re hearing more often than not of new models being released at prices that keep getting lower and lower.

So, does Moore’s Law apply to 3D printers as well? I’m probably applying this extremely loosely to 3D printers, but the point it – the technology is getting faster, better and cheaper – all leading to more accessibility to more people who in turn use them in a wider range of environments and uses. From Motley Fool:

If the price continues to plummet, the number of companies using these machines could explode. This will be especially true as a new generation of designers comes to understand that they can easily create complex shapes and parts to produce new products that were previously too expensive, if not impossible, to manufacture.

Wohlers Associates, a consulting firm specializing in tracking development in the emerging field of rapid prototype manufacturing, has estimated that the market for these machines will grow 360% to 15,000 units by 2012.

There’s no doubt 3D printers will become more mainstream in the very near future. Where it’ll be about the exchange of designs, rather than the exchange of actual physical things, putting more control into the consumer’s hand at “manufacturing” a whole design or even just parts and pieces at home or office on their 3D printer or at their local digital manufacturer.

via The Motley Fool

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It isn’t the designs that are the important thing, it’s the knowledge in how to design things. Just as reading source code taught me how to be a programmer, so will freely available 3d printer designs teach the next generation of designers the true breadth of possible design.

I’m not sure if I agree with that Brett. Both the designs and the skills are valuable. The knowledge of how to program as well as the end results (the program itself) are useful to different people. But certainly opening it up to so many is going to change the way we see things.

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