3D printing popularity grows
Over the last week, I’ve seen several stories cross my desk regarding the 3D printing world and I wonder if we’re reaching a tipping point where 3D printed objects become commonplace and more people take advantage of the tremendous possibilities. One recent story was from Sculpteo – for the early adopters and those who fill their homes with the latest iPhones and accessories, the recent iPhone 5 connector change made it a pain to connect to speaker docks. The press release described it as follows – “Since then [the release of the new connector], fans of the Apple brand are faced with a dilemma… If they get kitted out with a new iPhone will they no longer be able to use their old dock or do they have to keep using their old generation iPhone? The lightning connector which is sold by Apple ensures that the iPhone 5 is compatible with a whole range of devices but it does not offer the physical support which enables it to be well-positioned. Due to the fact that Apple does not provide this component, the Sculpteo community have modeled the 3D file in order to offer a support for the iPhone 5 to all fans of the Cupertino company.” Purchasers need to note that the they require an Apple lightning connector. This is a great solution that can extend the usable life of certain electronics. Also, this is a “3D printing done for you” type of solution. The consumer of the item does not have to own a 3D printer, they just have to know that the product is out there and make the purchase. Next up, is something for the print-it-yourself crowd. A couple days ago, MakerBot announced a thingaverse.com “Hack-a-Thon.” From the release: “MakerBot and it’s popular website, Thingiverse.com, a place for anyone anywhere to share files and instructions for making things, is holding a Hack-A-Thon April 6 and 7th at its Brooklyn, N.Y., headquarters. Developers interested in stretching their programming muscles are invited to the two-day event to develop cool new apps in Thingiverse.com’s new API, which was just launched in January. Those interested in participating must register in advance at thingiverse.eventbrite.com by April 3rd.” I’m betting that there will be quite a few very cool files, processes and programs that come out of this event. Kudos to MakerBot too for the interesting approach to marketing. I don’t own a 3D printer but I’m very interested in this event and my likelihood of making a purchase increases as the ease of use and available files increases. This year, our friends over at printrbot released an iPhone app called MAKRZ where you can browse through various files and even save them off to your linked dropbox account. That seems incredibly handy to me since you don’t have to sync or plug in your phone in order to pull down the files. “MAKRZ is a community of “Makers” sharing open source files for 3D printing, laser cutting and machining (CNC). Browse tens of thousands of beautifully rendered 3D models and 2D drawings. You can link your Dropbox account and download any file you want to save for later. MAKRZ features a beautiful but simple interface that eschews geeky descriptions and focuses on visually browsing through the files available for download.” (Source) Have you experimented with any 3D printing services or own your own 3D printer? What are your thoughts on current barriers to adopting the technology?