Tag Archives: Terry Wohlers

NPR Calls 3D Printing “Miraculous” in All Things Considered Feature

20120720-DSTL UNR 3D Printing

NPR correspondent Zoe Chace filed a special report on All Things Considered about 3D printing. She interviews Shapeways CEO Peter Weijmarshausen, industry analyst Terry Wohlers, and author Chris Anderson.

This is the latest report from NPR. Back in June, they also discussed 3D printing.

Zoe Chace takes through what 3D printing can do, and calls it “miraculous”. In a matter of hours, you can print “stuff”, from shoes to bracelets to iPhone cases. She continues to say that it’s easy to see how 3D printing could have a radical impact on the economy.

Peter Weijmarshausen helps us understand what Shapeways’ role is in the 3D printing industry. Terry Wohlers talks about what 3D printing might replace, and what it won’t. Chris Anderson discusses how 3D printing will lead to the democratization of manufacturing.



You can listen to the full radio program or read the transcript below.

The first key to thinking about 3-D printers is this: Do not think printer. Think magic box that creates any object you can imagine.

In the box, razor-thin layers of powdered material (acrylic, nylon, silver, whatever) pile one on top of the other, and then, voila — you’ve got a shoe, or a cup, or a ring, or an iPhone case.

It’s miraculous to see. Press a button, make anything you want. But just how important is 3-D printing? Unlike earlier big-deal technologies (like, say, the tractor) 3-D printing won’t really replace what came before.

“If you’re producing trash cans or stadium seats, you’ll more than likely produce them the old way,” says analyst Terry Wohlers.

And for consumers, the economist Tyler Cowen points out, it’s still way easier to order something from Amazon than print it yourself — and that’s how people will buy things for the foreseeable future.

Still, 3D printing is amazingly powerful for personalized applications.

Right now, there are 30,000 people walking around with 3D printed titanium hips, which are less expensive than conventionally manufactured artificial hips.

Boosters of 3D printing dream of a day when printers can make new body parts. More prosaically, they talk about a day when every shirt, every dress, every pair of pants can be custom printed to perfectly fit each person.

Another thing to keep in mind about 3D printing: It democratizes who gets to be in the manufacturing business. You don’t need a giant factory and million-dollar machines. You just need $500 and a garage.


Via NPR.

3D printing photo by DSTL UNR used under Creative Commons license.

NPR Interview: 3D Printing Without Limits, Body Parts, Sharing Culture

NPR Science Friday 3D Printing

NPR held a special radio feature on 3D printing during their Science Friday program. Ira Flatow interviewed industry consultant Terry Wohlers, MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis, and Cornell Associate Professor Hod Lipson.

What if you needed a new toothbrush and all you had to do was hit print? What if doctors could print out transplantable organs and pastry chefs turned to a printer, not a kitchen, for their next creation? Ira Flatow and a panel of guests discuss 3D printing technology, how far it’s come and what a 3D-printed-future could look like.

Topics ranged from basic background information to detailed questions. Read the highlights below and then listen to the full radio program.

What is 3D printing? What is the MakerBot?

Terry Wohlers and Bre Pettis gave a nice overview of what 3D printing is. Here is Bre’s explanation of what the MakerBot does.

The MakerBot replicator uses one of two plastics. You can either make things in ABS plastic, which is what LEGO is made out of, or you can use PLA, which is the plastic that’s made from corn. And then you get your plastic on spools, and it kind of looks like a big spool of spaghetti.

And the spaghetti goes into the machine, and it draws a picture in plastic, and then it goes up a little bit, and layer after layer, it creates your model, and you can really create anything.

All the tools for designing things are becoming democratized. So 3D printing is getting democratized, the tools that make things are getting easier. You can use things like Tinkercad, which is free and online, and you’re off to the races and making things.

Will everyone have a 3D printer?

Comparisons were made to inkjets and microwaves. When first introduced into the market, these products were expensive and unfamiliar, but now they are common home appliances.

Even if, in the future, everyone does not have a 3D printer in the home, the experts suggested that people will have access to a 3D printer and will buy parts manufactured locally by a nearby 3D printer.

Can body parts be 3D printed?

It will happen in our lifetime. We are already 3D printing a replacement knee meniscus and have prototyped bone and organs.

Are there any limits to 3D printing?

For the first time in human history, making something complex with details that cannot be manufacturing through traditional processes is as simple as making a paperweight.

Current consumer machines are limited in size. MakerBot can print objects up to the size of a loaf of bread. But there are professional printers that can make much larger objects.

Hod Lipson’s team has a goal to print a robot, batteries included, that can walk off the printer.

The experts agreed that 3D printing will let us think about new breakthroughs in product design.

Culture of Sharing

The 3D printing community is very collaborative and are building off of each other’s successes. This allows for continuous innovation through a culture of sharing.


Via NPR.

Science museum photo by chooyutshing used under Creative Commons license.