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Three Dimensional Printers

Updated on August 8, 2007

Most of us have these big things by our computer called printers which can replicate a 2-D document in various colors. That's great if you want something on paper, but what if we could it too the next dimension? That's right, I'm talking about a three-dimensional printer, which would be able to create objects in three-dimensional space.

Sounds cool, doesn't it? It definitely sounds like something from science fiction, like someday we would have a device that could make three-dimensional objects. In all honesty, not only does the technology exist today, but it is already in use. Many big factories use 3-D printers to create special parts for their particular products, but these devices are big and expensive, in the $15,000 dollar range.

However, Desktop Factory is bridging the gap between business and home equipment by offering the lowest 3D printer available today. Granted, it still costs about $5,000 USD, but it is a small price to pay if you want to play God.

Okay, maybe that was taking it too far. You may not be able to multiply bread with this 3-D printer, but you can use powdered plastic to layer materials that you have created via 3-D software. The device itself is ironically about the size of an old-style laser printer, and uses the heat of a halogen light bulb to melt the matter. The designers of the 3-D printer compare the technology to an Easy-Bake Oven.

The price is pretty high for household users, but competitors are thinking that a 3-D Printer could easily drop in price to about $1,000. I foresee that the prices could get even lower, and they could become as common as 2-D printers.

This certainly could change things as we know it. Imagine being able to craft objects like a spare part. No more trips to the hardware store if you can just make it yourself. There has also been talks about sites where you would be able to download a 3-D image so you could print it out. I think that would change Legos as we know it. No more buying sets full of the one part your kid needs when you can just 3-D print one up yourself.

I am a little concerned with the environmental effects of this device. Plastic is good because it is permanent, but sometimes it's too permanent. Unless we could somehow recycle this, we could make it even harder for Mother Earth.

However, I'm guessing they are working on technology that would enable 3-D printers to use something other than plastic. It's a lot like the replicators on Star Trek, which magically create food and other such amenities on a whim. If we ever get to that point, which now seems unlikely, that would change just about everything.


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