Over the last few years we have watched a whole load of new technologies go from expensive items for the professional to cheap gadgets for the home. Laptops, Mobile phones, plasma TVs, digital cameras, HD camcorders, GPS, photo printers, scanners, the list goes on. This year everything is going 3D. TVs and laptops with 3D screens are already available at reasonable prices and within a few of years most gadgets that can be made to work in 3D will be sold mostly in 3D versions. If you are an early adopter you may already have your 3D phone with 3D screen and camera, but what about 3D printers?
3D printers don’t print 3D pictures that you view with 3D glasses like 3D TVs, they print real 3D objects made out of plastic. Already they are being used by manufacturing and design companies for rapid prototyping and in medicine they are being used to print bone replacements for knees, hips and jaws. Each part is a one-off with exactly the right shape produced directly from a computer model. The cost of a 3D printer such as this HP Designjet is about €13,000 so a few rich gadget freaks may already have them in their home. For most of us the cost will need to come down by one or two orders of magnitude before it gets onto the Xmas wishlist. Will that happen and if so how fast? Assuming there is no technical obstacle the answer depends on the demand. What would we use it for?
If you think the only thing a 3d printer could be used for in the home is printing spare buttons for your shirt then you are sadly lacking in imagination. Somebody with a bit more vision would see things differently and he or she may be the next entrepreneur to reach the top ten on the worlds rich list. I regret that it isn’t going to be me but it might be someone like Oskar van Deventer who has been using Shapeways 3D printing services to make ingenious (and often amusing) puzzles based on Rubik’s Cube. When you need some inspiration you could do worse than browse some of the many videos on his Youtube channel. Here are some favourites.
17x17x17 Rubik’s Cube
Thank you for watching.
Bonus – How to solve Rubik’s cube in 5.66 seconds
When you are 3 years old it may take you a little longer