3-D Printers Show Unlimited Potential

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Feb. 4, 2013 12:00 am  

Tebbetts said 3-D printers will be — and are — revolutionary in the manufacturing world.

“This used to be the traditional path: You would design, make a prototype, then go back and change your design, test it, then go back again, and so forth,” he said. “This allows you to speed up several steps.”

“I think you can optimize your product a whole lot more economically,” Hill said. “When you’re out there designing something that hasn’t been made before, you can eliminate a whole lot of problems by building the model of it.”

NAMJet’s printer is also still in great shape after eight years. Hill estimated that, based on how often it’s used, the machine will likely be obsolete before it breaks down — he said the printer might be used a couple of times a month, then go two months without being touched, and then might be active for three straight days.

“It just depends on when we’re coming up with a new design,” Hill said.

NAMJet’s next printer might be light-years ahead of what it has now. UALR’s model cost $40,000 when it was purchased two years ago, but a brand new MakerBot Replicator, a personal 3-D printer that can make an object as large as a loaf of bread, can now be had for less than $2,000. One group is making a machine called the Filabot Reclaimer that breaks up plastic waste to make new build material.

Guns, iPad mounts, prosthetic limbs, buildings made of printed blocks, even human tissue — all of these things, in the near future, could be cooked up in the magic box. Anyone could be a manufacturer. All one needs is the box, a design and a bit of plastic.

See also: 3-D Printing: How It Works



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