The state of digital manufacturing

Where are we at, right now.

Excerpt from a review by Albert Wegner:

“So how far are we along this path? It is early days. Probably a little too early to declare that atoms “are” the new bits. But progress has been rapid and it feels distinctly as if we are at the cusp of rapid acceleration. For a geek like myself it is impossible to look at the Cupcake CNC from Makerbot and not think of it as the Apple I of personal manufacturing. At the same time as other 3D printers cost $100,000 or more, the Cupcake comes as a kit for $750. That is two orders of magnitude cheaper. Yes, there is some assembly required (Bre jokes that it’s at the level of IKEA furniture) but it is easy to extrapolate to an Apple II, which will be the Makerbot in a box. In the meantime, there is a growing list of things that can be printed with a Makerbot that can be found at Thingiverse.

In parallel to Makerbot driving the price of hardware way down, Shapeways has been developing a lively marketplace for 3D printing. Shapeways connects folks who just want to buy a custom part with developers who create models and printing capacity for the actual production. The beauty of such a marketplace is that it lets everyone focus on what they do best. 3D Modelers can optimize their designs without having to worry about operating a printer or shipping for fulfillment (they become the “content” creators for 3D printing). For instance, the dremel fuge cited above is available, as are wonderful mathematical art objects (several of which are decorating my office) and a wide variety of jewelry. 3D Printers in turn can focus on optimizing the process and driving down the cost. For people who just need stuff, Shapeways offers an e-commerce experience as simple as buying on Amazon. As an aside, Shapeways has put up a neat series of videos about 3D printing on Youtube.”

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