3D Printing Blossoms into the Mainstream – BusinessWeek Special Report
First, the author takes us into the home of 14-year-old Riley Lewis, whose father purchased a 3D printing kit for $1500 so that Riley and his friends could spend the weekends in the garage making whatever cool new products they wanted.
Riley and his friends have accepted as a mundane fact that computer designs can be passed among friends, altered at will, and then brought to life by microwave oven-size machines. The RapMan is a crude approximation of far more expensive and sophisticated prototyping machines used by corporations, much in the same way that hobbyist PCs were humble mimics of mainframe computers. Riley and his dad, David, spent 32 hours putting together a 3D printer from a $1,500 hobbyist kit.
The article also shares with us the history of 3D printing, which is older than most people think.
The ability to print physical objects wasn’t invented in Silicon Valley or some well-funded corporate research lab. It originated about 30 years ago in Southern California, where Chuck Hull was working for a modest-size manufacturer called Ultra Violet Products, or UVP. An engineer and physicist by training, Hull helped steer the development of the company’s ultraviolet-light curable resins, which were used to add protective coatings to furniture and other surfaces. Always a tinkerer, Hull began experimenting after hours with laying down numerous coats of the resin to make plastic models.
Already companies such as Mercedes (DAI), Honda (HMC), Boeing (BA), and Lockheed Martin (LMT) use 3D printers to fashion prototypes or to make parts that go into final products. The technology has broadened out to attract vacuum maker Oreck and Invisalign, which produces custom braces for teeth. Microsoft also uses a 3D printer to help design computer mice and keyboards.
Great research! Enjoyed the article.