Thursday, September 26, 2013

The world is going to be amazing.

There are a couple of technologies that are brewing around the Valley that give me great hope for the future. It's easy to feel the manufacturing renaissance is dead, dead, dead. I don't agree. 3D printing is going to be one of the most disruptive technologies of our time. It will truly change the world.

It's moving really fast now. Even though I've been watching this sector for about 10 years, and I see new 3D printers every few months,  and they still keep coming up with ways to impress me.

When I walked into that tool show yesterday I expected to see tools. Happily I also saw industrial 3D printers from Stratasys and 3Dsystems. I'm more excited about that stuff anyway. Stratasys is the company that just bought Makerbot. The models were not  for home consumers, rather the company you work for might own one. They were higher end models.

The super interesting thing IMO was  everyone was printing with Gypsum (sandstone). I've seen machines print with all sorts of stuff. Berkeley has a machine that prints with cardboard like material. 3D printing is open source right now - so everyone is trying everything. Different printer designs. Different materials.

The thing about the gypsum though, is it creates a realistic weightiness to objects. It also gives a depth to the material so you can create very realistic figurines. Here from Shapeways.

Stratasys was displaying some fittings and the usual brickabrack.

3Dsystems had a couple of super realistic shoe prototypes on display.

Now that the novelty has worn off, the objects being printed are starting to feel like they could be used in a real world environment. The shoes not so much. Gypsum is not wearable, but it makes great prototypes.

If you look hard enough in the image at the top you can see my reflection.


  1. We want to adopt 3d printing, but are intimidated by the costs, technical challenges and uncertainties over the actual results we can expect. In order to master our large format printer it took close to 4 large number in hardware, software and wasted supplies. I could see the learning curve being just as high with this tech. If we could sell obsolete connectors in our industry, it would be like printing money, but there is a lot of risk when you have to make your money back a few dollars at a time. What I'd like to see is some of these old print shops that have been going obsolete enter this industry and support small businesses by printing objects instead of stationery. If we could give someone else the parts to scan and replicate, it lowers the cost of admission and would accelerate the number of ways that 3d printing could be used in life. DF

  2. Yeah. I didn't think you wanted to be the guinea pig for this technology. It's just moving too fast. Even I keep waiting to see which type is going to come out on top. I thought one type was going to float to the top already, but they just keep coming up with new methods.

    I've read that Staples and UPS are actually 3D kinkos now. I haven't used them. If you do - send me an email to let me know how the experience was. Or post a comment here.

  3. Interesting that both are getting into manufacturing. With their client base, it's probably a huge opportunity. I'll contact them and get a quote on connectors and see how crazy the prices are. Our webguy knows a place in sf where we can rent one but we'd still have to operate it and I'm too busy to learn more software. Still it would be pretty cool to have I can't tell you how many projects get stalled because of the 3 takes to ship some niche part or how expensive it can be to pay $18 in shipping for some .20 piece. Lets just hope the lawyers don't manage to screw up one of the most promising technologies of our time.