August 4, 2013

A revolution in the making

By SHAN LI McClatchy Newspapers

(Continued from page 1)

3-D printers
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Plastic items made by Diego Porqueras with a Bukobot 3-D printer. "It just blew my mind, what these printers can do," Porqueras said. "Who knows what the future will hold?"

3-D printers
click image to enlarge

Diego Porqueras is framed by one of the pieces he created with a Bukobot 3-D printer in his newly opened Deezmaker store in Pasadena, Calif.

Photos by Los Angeles Times/McClatchy Newspapers

Additional Photos Below

"It's much easier to work with, and there's less waste," he said.

For consumers who aren't tinkerers or designers, industry experts say, a potentially bigger market could lie in on-demand services. Think of it as Amazon.com for custom orders, only with no warehouses required because a purse or belt is only made after it's ordered.

Shoppers can already go on sites such as Shapeways or Cubify, run by 3D Systems, and either find a designer for a custom design or tweak an available product.

More than 10,000 shops have been set up by designers on Shapeways, which manufactures and ships a product after an order comes in, said company spokeswoman Elisa Richardson. Bestselling items include iPhone accessories, jewelry, home decor and wedding cake toppers -- grooms and brides-to-be send in photos of themselves and receive toppers with their faces printed on them.

Kimberly Orvitz, a fashion designer who recently launched a 3-D printed jewelry line, said the technology saves money: There's no requirement to order products in bulk from a factory and no storage costs. Shoppers can also "customize by selecting colors and materials," she said.

GUNS AND BRAKES

But the technology has not been without controversy.

Cody Wilson, the owner of a gun-manufacturing firm in Texas, made headlines after he successfully fired a 3-D-printed gun of his own design earlier this year (he also uses the technology to make firearm magazines and lower receivers).

For now, such guns may pose more of a danger to the maker. Australian police who tried making Wilson's design reported the plastic gun exploded after firing. Still, a recently leaked Department of Homeland Security bulletin said such firearms pose public safety risks.

Industry experts say there is more danger in consumers making ordinary products that are defective.

"The gun thing has been way overhyped because if you really want to make a gun, there are better and cheaper ways to do it," Wohlers said. "But just think about people printing a brake part for their car, and it breaks going down the highway and people are injured or worse."

For now, the relatively untapped market has allowed not just big corporations but also entrepreneurs to jump in.

Porqueras, the owner of the Pasadena store, was a Hollywood camera technician before becoming fascinated with 3-D printing.

Always a tinkerer, he created his own ideal 3-D printer, started a campaign on the fundraising site Kickstarter, and raised $167,000 -- enough to quit his job and start selling his machine full time. He recently launched another campaign to raise funds for the Bukito, his portable 3-D printer priced at $650.

"It just blew my mind what these printers can do," Porqueras said. "Who knows what the future will hold?"

 

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Additional Photos

3-D printers
click image to enlarge

Diego Porqueras holds a Bukito 3-D printer. Bukobot 3-D printers sit on the counter.

  


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