My nephew and I were talking the other day about 3D printers. We’ve been discussing them for three months or so now, and have been amazed at the expansion of “low” cost options entering the market. The other day, we saw one for around $200 USD, with a reasonable set of features and options.
There have been a few Kickstarter projects in recent history that have successfully funded the development of new 3D printers, and there are some running right now that look like they’ll be more than a little successful as well.
The Buccaneer was asking for $100,000 in funding and has managed to bring in over $1.3 million dollars. If you fund $450 USD plus shipping, you could own one of the third batch of Buccaneers being made.
The one I found for $200 was the MakiBOX A6 LT. For $300, you can get their version that can not only use PLA, but also ABS, the same material used in making LEGO.
A site I found called 3Ders has a list compiled of all the options for 3D printing and their cost. Check out that list for more details. They range from $200 to $25,000 but the key thing is the continued reduction in cost. I remember, not even a year ago, the average price of a new 3D printer was in the thousands, and now we are seeing many entrants in the hundreds.
I think there is a lower barrier of around $200 for these kinds of things, and I don’t see it breaking through that for a long time, much like laser printers in the late 90’s and early 00’s.
After I am married, one of the things I think I’ll splurge on is purchasing a 3D printer. I think its usefulness will not truly come around until five or ten years from now, but the idea is really appealing to me. I would love to attempt some basic prototyping, printing some cool models others have made, and just playing around with a device that basically prints what I want, when I want. I don’t think there is anything more liberating than that, and I’ve wanted a replicator since watching Star Trek: The Next Generation. Of course, it is also one of those items that makes a lot of sense to share. I expect my nephews will want to use it, and they have experience modelling things in CAD software, which is something I don’t really have. Their ability to create things will be much better than the plates, cups, and shapes that I’ll make.
I know one thing I’ll probably print is a small set of sci-fi ships for myself. I would love to print out a Defiant from Star Trek, a Whitestar from Babylon 5 and a few other ships from sci-fi shows and movies.
What are your thoughts on 3D printers? Are they still too much of a gimmick? What kind of advancements do you expect next?
I am waiting for them to figure out how to easily switch material colours, and maybe even integrating wires to allow for many potentially interesting uses. Of course, I also want the resolution to continue to improve, and the printing surface to grow.
Can you tell I’m a bit excited about this technology?