Cheap 3D printers for the home

from the shape-of-things-to-come dept.
WillWare writes "Eugene Leitl posted this story by New Scientist to the nsg-d list, regarding recent advances in stereolithography and other 3D printing techniques, particularly the innovation of printing multiple materials in the same session. Some tantalizing quotes from the article:

Geometric complexity is largely irrelevant… You can design the internal and external geometry of a part, and its electrical, mechanical and thermal properties exactly how you want them to be.

Dickens says he knows of a number of companies who are looking at mass-producing 3D printersfor less than £1000 apiece… They could be available within a couple of years if one of the companies decided to go for it.

At the current exchange rate, £1000 is $1440. It is quite likely that such printers will be very popular. If large numbers of people buy one, much of what we normally imagine as the nanotech post-scarcity economy will appear overnight. 3D printers will offer an early preview of some of the important challenges of nanotech.

The intellectual property issues involved will be essentially identical to those of nanotechnology. Toy companies (and others previously engaged in manufacturing) will fight against the AutoCAD-file version of Napster. The status of patents and other mechanisms of IP protection will come under scrutiny.

There will doubtless be circulating CAD files for guns, knives, and other dangerous trinkets, and an associated rash of urban legends (recall Monty Python's "spring surprise"). This will provoke thought and discussion which will later pertain to military and terrorist applications of nanotechnology.

It's a good thing to see these issues come into the public eye in a context far less dangerous than nanotech. The task of public education will then require only the elucidation of what differentiates nanotechnology from 3D printer technology."

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