Sun, Dec 15, 2013 - Page 9 News List

3D printing portends the second industrial revolution

Developments in printing technology have facilitated a transformation in manufacturing, placing affordable 3D printing within the grasp of anyone with an interest

By Samuel Gibbs  /  The Guardian

A pizza was chosen as one of the project’s first goals, demonstrating the printer’s ability to mix nutrients, flavors and textures.

No longer restricted to the Internet or custom shops in the US, 3D printers are already available on the British market in stores like Maplin Electronics.

Similar to IKEA furniture, 3D printers like the GBP700 Velleman K8200 come flat-packed and require construction before they can be used, with 1kg of the plastic printing material costing £30 (US$48).

Assembly takes about an hour or two, while printing something the size of a smartphone case takes approximately 30 minutes, putting 3D printing within the grasp of many more people.

Now that more affordable 3D printers are making their way into homes, the next important step in the second industrial revolution is the creation of content.

These scanners are traditionally expensive, but projects like the Rubicon 3D scanner are attempting to change that with kits costing about £200 or less, using a combination of bespoke parts and common computer components.

The Rubicon 3D uses an off-the-shelf webcam coupled to a 3D-printed turntable and two lasers to scan almost any small object, producing high-resolution 3D models ready for printing or manipulation on a computer.

The 3D printing revolution is not limited to do-it-at-home hobbyists. Asda, among other retailers, has begun offering 3D printing and scanning services in-store.

Shoppers can walk into the 3D scanning booth in Asda’s store in York and replicate just about anything bigger than a shoe, including people and pets.

The object is scanned within minutes in-store. The model is then sent to a specialist 3D printing company, which produces a ceramic print in up to 6 million different colors at various sizes for as little as £40 within a few days, shipping it back to the store, ready to pick up with next week’s shopping.

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