Progress in the Area of Affordable Desktop 3D Printers

Apparently car enthusiast Jay Leno recently used 3D printing technology to manufacture a rare part for his 1907 White Steamer. While most of us don’t have the financial means that Leno has, such technology is rapidly falling in price:

While an industrial 3D printer (also known as a fabricator or a rapid prototyper) would once have cost over $100,000, a perfectly adequate machine for home use can now be had for less than $2,000. Those prepared to assemble their own can buy kits for $500 or so…The size of products that can be made using a desktop 3D printer is usually limited to something that can fit within a five-inch (12.7cm) cube…Even so, a desktop 3D printer will suffice for a surprising number of components used in cars and around the home. (full article)

Particularly exciting is the RepRap Project.  Started in 2005, RepRap is a free open source 3D printer that is capable of building its own components. Meaning the RepRap is effectively self replicating:

Following the principles of the free software movement, the designs for the RepRap machine are being distributed free …those designs include all the plastic parts for the [Rep Rap] itself, so if you have a RepRap machine you can print a new one for a friend.

Here is RepRap’s introductory video:

Another competing 3D Printer is the MakerBot Thing-O-Matic. Claiming to be “more reliable” than the RepRap, the current kit price is a modest $1,299:

Yet another contender is the Ultimaker which retails for $1700 in kit form.  From their website:

The Ultimaker is the new kid on the block for 3D printing which officially started selling in May 2011….We are committed to making 3D printing better, faster and simpler. Also, the Ultimaker is designed to print larger objects, while the printer only occupies a small space on your desktop.

Although I can’t personally vouch for the efficacy of these printers, it appears we may be on the verge of a revolution in desktop 3D printing…

One thought on “Progress in the Area of Affordable Desktop 3D Printers

  1. 3D printers were the subject of the cover and lead article in the The Economist several months ago. The cover was a picture of a violin manufactured by a 3D printer that actually played