June 16, 2013

3-D printing our future?

From body parts to musical instruments and much more, three-dimensional printing is likely to change the things we make and how we make and sell them.

By ERIC ADLER McClatchy Newspapers

(Continued from page 2)

the printable life
click image to enlarge

It took five hours and 10 minutes to “print” this coffee mug at the Prototype Studio at Hallmark in Kansas City, Mo. The technology that makes this possible is becoming omnipresent and companies and ideas are booming.

Photo by Rich Sugg/Kansas City Star

the printable life
click image to enlarge

Olaf Diegel, a New Zealand engineer, has created a market for his functioning electric guitars made by using 3-D printing.

Courtesy Olaf Diegel

Additional Photos Below

What is new is the growth in the industry, particularly in personal 3-D printers produced by companies with names like 3D Systems Corp., MakerBot, Stratasys, MakerGear, FlashForge and Zen Toolworks.

In May, Staples became the first major U.S. retailer to announce it would soon be selling 3D Systems' Cube 3-D printer at its stores, beginning in Europe, and also online starting at $1,299.

Additive manufacturing and 3-D printing is a $2.2 billion industry, according to a 2013 report prepared by Wohlers Associates, an industry consulting group in Fort Collins, Colo.

It is barely a speck compared with the $1.8 trillion generated by U.S. manufacturing last year.

But in 2010, 2011 and 2012, the global market for 3-D or additive manufactured products grew 24.1 percent, 29.4 percent and 28.6 percent, respectively, according to the report.

Sales last year of industrial 3-D printers (those costing $5,000 or more) grew 19.3 percent, which is nothing compared with the personal 3-D printer market: up more than 300 percent each year on average since 2008.

Lipson of Cornell said it is the personalized, individual market, the creation of what he called "arbitrary shapes on demand," that makes 3-D printing appealing and powerful.

"Chances are you are walking around people with 3-D printed parts on them, but they are just hidden," he said, using the example of "invisible" dental braces.

"They are 3-D-printed," Lipson said. "Fifty thousand of these every day, not per year. That is something that is small and custom-shaped, and you can't mass-produce something like that. The same thing with hearing-aid casings and (dental) crowns."


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Additional Photos

the printable life
click image to enlarge

A wrench and a bicycle chain were created by 3-D printing at the Prototype Studio at Hallmark in Kansas City, Mo.

Photo by Rich Sugg/Kansas City Star


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