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The 3D printing future is bright. That was the consensus of industry leaders on a panel at SXSW this year in Austin, Texas. The show kicked off with MakerBot’s Bre Pettis unveiling the new MakerBot Digitizer 3D scanner and closed with 3D printed toys producer MakieLab winning the SXSW Accelerator top prize.
The panel discussed three topics:
- Business opportunities
- IP and copyright issues
- General thoughts about the industry
Reichental discussed how 3D printing is already powering major industries. He noted that hearing aids are manufactured using 3D printing, many dental implants are 3D printed, and parts used in military jets and drones are created using 3D printing as well. 3D Systems has a partnership from the military to increase the number of 3D printed parts to 900 for the next generation jet.
While 3D Systems is a large public company, Taylor and Summit represented their experience in their respective startups. 3D printing enabled them to get manufacturing intensive businesses to market without incurring dramatic capital expenses. The things that kill startups – time to market, upfront costs, and inventory costs – go away with 3D printing.
Intellectual property concerns were somewhat dismissed by the panel, suggesting that piracy is simply a demonstration of market demand and loyalty. Summit argued that a larger risk for piracy is the counterfeit mass production of goods in China.
Likewise, the hype around 3D printed guns was suggested to be overplayed by the media and not a real risk. Taylor suggested it will continue to be easier to buy a gun than print one.
Looking to the future, the panelists commented on 4D printing (3D printing with functionality) and 5D printing (voxel manufacturing) as revolutionary directions the technology could go, while also acknowledging that there are real limitations with respect to materials and cost today.
The panel also suggested that prices of consumer 3D printers would fall as competition increased.
Wow, deep “we lost a generation to video games, buy your kids a 3D printer and they’ll become a rocket scientist by college” #ftr3dprint
— Jake Frick (@JakeFrick) March 11, 2013
— Sarah Schultz (@schultzse) March 11, 2013
Original panel description from SXSW
No longer is it necessary to create a mold and make 10,000 of an item in order to get it produced. Today, 3D printing allows almost anyone to create just about design they can imagine. The technology is being used to make everything from toys to motorcycles to airplane parts, and even houses, as well as incredible medical advances . Where is the tech going? Some think it can make new parts for the International Space Station. Others see it as a way for designers to make money selling 3D models.
What’s clear is that production will never be the same. The question is whether the technology behind creating 3D printed products can really be democratic, or if truly high-end production will remain in the hands of a skilled — and monied — few.
Experts in the field will share their thoughts on the state of the art, and where this exciting tech is likely to go in the years to come. CNET Reviews editor Rich Brown, who has been writing about 3D printing for years, will moderate.
Photo by William Hertling.
In the video below, CNET’s Rafe Needleman interviews executives of two 3D printer makers and how they are charting the future of manufacturing.
Bre Pettis from MakerBot emphasizes his company’s focus on open-source innnovation. The Replicator is great for tinkerers.
Cathy Lewis from 3D Systems talks about the range of capabilities from personal 3D printing to mass production via the cloud. The Cubify allows consumers to “color in” designs provided by the 3D Systems marketplace.
Rafe Needleman approaches questions from “How do I print 5000 widgets?” to “Why wouldn’t I just buy this widget at retail?” and more.
In the video below, CNET reviews the MakerBot Replicator. This is the first 3D printer reviewed by CNET.
Rich Brown, Senior Editor for CNET, tells us, ”Chances are if you’ve heard of 3D printing, you’ve also heard of MakerBot,” and concludes that the Replicator is the most capable 3D printer under $2000.
MakerBot Replicator photo by Creative Tools used under Creative Commons license.