Western Standard

The Shotgun Blog

« Iggy Channels the Gipper | Main | The Nanny State: Then and Now »

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Welcome to 3-D Printing

No, you don't have to wear those stupid glasses:

Someone designs an object — a cookie cutter, cup or canister — on a computer and then sends that design to a 3-D printer. The printer does not draw a picture of the item on a piece of paper, as an ordinary printer would do. Instead, it physically builds the object, by squirting melted plastic out of nozzles. The plastic follows the computer design, and layer by layer, the printer constructs the object.

For years, large manufacturers have relied on hulking, expensive 3-D printers to make prototype parts for airplanes, cars and machinery. Recently, though, a new crop of 3-D printers and services has arrived to make this type of technology affordable for consumers. And so a true 3-D printer craze has started to take hold of the techno-hobbyist clan.

Posted by Richard Anderson on January 18, 2011 | Permalink


I looked at a big industrial size 3-D printer in 2003. A friend of mine opened a factory in Oregon, and was designing office/hospital equipment. To really get any benefit, you need a 3-D scanner so you can replicate a hand machined model. The design/computer skills required to simply built something with CAD software is way over most people's heads.

If you have a 3-D laser scanner, you can scan almost anything into a file, and reproduce it at whatever scale you want. These scanners aren't dangerous to your health, so you could scan a person's body, and "print" it to almost perfect proportions. You can shrink or expand an object with the computer software.

These things are great for factories that reproduce antiques, or obsolete machinery. That's how someone in Taiwan is able to sell you a fender for a '65 Mustang. They scan an original, and enter the information into their computers.

Posted by: dp | 2011-01-18 9:41:09 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.