Downloading Designs: Home 3D Printing Coming Soon


Jamie Rector for The New York Times

Bill Gross of IdeaLab is at it again, and will soon be selling the Desktop Factory. In a disgraceful example of verbing, he said "We are Easy-Bake Ovening a 3-D model," he said. "The really powerful thing about this idea is that the fundamental engineering allows us to make it for $300 in materials." Some of the uses envisioned are useful: "IdeaLab hopes companies will sell three-dimensional designs over the Internet. This would allow people to print out replacements for a dishwasher rack at home." Others are frivolous: "You could go to Mattel.com, download Barbie, scan your Mom's head, slap the head on Barbie and print it out," suggests Joe Shenberger, the director of sales for Desktop Factory. "You could have a true custom one-off toy."

Now the technology can only do simple, solid plastic forms, but Cornell University has made a machine that can print out in silicone, plaster, Cheez Whiz and Play-Doh. You can build it yourself from plans available here. Its developer, Professor Hod Lipson, foresees more complex devices:

Professor Lipson said researchers are developing ways to use the process to build parts with more complex functions. They have preliminary designs for batteries, sensors, and parts that can bend when electricity is applied.

"A milestone for us would be to print a robot that would get up and walk out of the printer," Professor Lipson said. "Batteries included." ::New York Times

Tags: Dematerialization | Downloadable Design