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3D Printing Isn't In The Stone Age Anymore

Atlanta Georgia recently hosted Rapid 2012, the biggest 3D printingconference in the North American continent. 3D printing has come a long waysince 1979, and I personally believe it is beginning to expand at anexponential rate. These conventions haven’t been around for very long, and itis beginning to speak for the rise in popularity for 3D printing. When 3D printing first came out, it was very expensive,inefficient, and bulky. Machines used for this additive manufacturing processwere the size of small rooms, and they produced parts that held very low detailat small sizes. These pieces weren’t anywhere close to what we have today. Ilike to compare the premature forms of 3D printing to the premature forms ofthe modern computer. All machines were huge, inefficient, and expensive, yetthey couldn’t do much of anything! It is more than likely that you have amini-computer in your pocket right now as you read this article. Do you catchmy drift? Manufacturers such as Objet, Makerbot, 3D Systems, andStratasys are working to make a “personal” 3D printing machine for almost anyoneto afford. Think of Dell or HP launching the first home desktop; it was smallenough to fit on a table, but it weighed 25 pounds and had a poor interface in comparisonto what exists today. I think that is where we are at this current time periodwhen it comes down to 3D printing. Just like the desktop computers could printdocuments, hold records, and do basic to intermediate functions, home 3Dprinters can do the same thing! The Cube by 3D systems can build 5.5” x 5.5” x 5.5” modelsout of a variety of colored ABS plastics with less than 30 micron detail ataround $1,200! The Makerbot series has had the Thing-o-matic model out forquite a while, but competition is removing its “say” in the market. Stratasyshas launched the Mojo printer which creates slightly smaller, but slightlyhigher detailed prints than The Cube, at a higher price. Product developershave even been launching home DIY kits for Stereolithography (SLA) printers onthe web for less than $2,400. We are now in the “test stage” for home printers.Small businesses and homes can afford to take these high detail FDM printers intotheir homes and offices; just imagine how well this will progress!  We are no longer in a world where the Uprintplus is the onlydesktop printer around running at over $20,000 nor are we in a world where theonly affordable printer is a Makerbot that makes poor models. Variety is inexistence today; the option of detail, material, color, finishes, and pricingis now up for discussion. The biggest improvement on 3D printing in my opinionis the competition! When 3D systems launched The Cube which creates higherdetail models with more variety at a lower price than Makerbot’s models, westarted! Now there are quite a few models to choose from when considering ahome printer. Just imagine how much further we will be within the next 5 years.Maybe the next 3 years. The next 2 years? Competition is beginning to drivethis market to create better products at better prices.

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