3D Printers – This is “Cool” Technology

How about a 2 billion dollar industry that could become the next trillion dollar industry?  This is game changing technology that is revolutionizing business models built around physical goods.  It’s like an inkjet printer on steroids, where the print out is not words on paper in 2D, but rather a physical object.  The “toner” for desktop 3D printers is various colored plastics that the print head melts into thin layers onto a surface.   And it lays down layer after layer over minutes to several hours , creating anything from toys to auto parts to jewelry to house-wares, anything made of plastic and smaller than a breadbox.   It was even reported on the internet that a functioning hand gun had been successfully printed out of carbon fiber.  Now that’s scary!

According to Hod Lispon, professor of engineering at Cornell University, and co-author of the book “Fabricated: The New world of 3D Printing”, its much like the early PC’s in the 80’s when they were clumsy and difficult to use, until Bill Gates and Steve Jobs came along with the graphical user interface.  This brought the world of computing to the masses who didn’t want to learn how to code and program.  Today, in commercial applications for hearing aids, and braces they are in full production.  Millions of hearing aids are in use today custom molded to fit the ear canal exactly.  The company Invisalign creates some 50,000 transparent plastic braces, custom molded for each mouth, every day with 3D Printing.  These are only used for a week or two and the dentist re-engineers a gradual re-alignment with each new supply.    Amazing right?

How about an application for a 3D printed prosthetic hand for children called the “Robohand” designed by a South African woodworker and a Seattle theatrical prop designer.

Apparently, the cost of a traditional prosthetic hand is about $10,000 and most children go without, many for a lifetime.  The Makerbot 3D printer retails for about $2500, and they share designs including the “Robohand” for free here, which then can be 3D printed for about $5.  That is game changing technology!

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