You've seen the 3D televisions, right? Well, naturally, the next step in household, unnecessary-yet-awesome technology will be 3D printers. But wait, it's not what you're thinking. For all of you newbs – like me – bear with me, because this is a little confusing. When I first read about perspective home 3D printers, I pictured printers similar to what we have now, that print 3D images on sheets of paper. After consulting the eZanga geek pad, they informed me that I misinterpreted what I read.
We're not talking about 3D images here. We're talking about things. Actual objects… made out of matter. Can you imagine printing a pair of earrings or a spare key?! Well, researchers say that's what we have to look forward to. I know what you're thinking (because I was thinking the same thing)… how would you make matter out of practically nothing? How do you print a key? Well, scrap the idea you have in your head of what a printer is. Instead, think of it as a "home fabrication machine".
The company behind the printer 3D Systems, based out of Rock Hill, South Carolina, has teamed up with software makers Autodesk to create printing kits that use web APIs as their platforms.
Makerbot's Marty McGuire says "Feature-rich, open APIs are going to be critical to the future of 3D printing. We believe that APIs will allow people to share, print, remix, and re-share models quickly and seamlessly – across platforms modeling programs – and will lead to all new kinds of collaboration and innovation in 3D printing. "
I know, it's hard to understand quite how this is possible, and I'm still learning; but what I've gotten so far is that 3D Systems is able to print 3D objects. One designer chose to make a duplicate key to prove the usefulness of the printer.
Another surprising thing I learned about 3D printers (one of many), is that they have been around for 20 years! From what I hear, 3D printers have historically been worth millions of dollars, making them only accessible to people like rocket scientists….literally. Now, the specialist working on these new-fangled machines have lowered the cost of them in order to make them far more accessible (around $1000).
I'm no Suze Orman, but I worry about what 3D printers will do to the economy. Granted, as a consumer, it would be extremely cool and convenient to be able to print off a new dress whenever I felt like it, but what will happen to the entire retail industry? Can you imagine how many jobs we will lose? What are your thoughts on the matter (they're as good as mine!)?