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3-D printers help ideas take shape

Posted April 4

— 3-D printing technology can take ideas from a sketch to the third dimension.

The next generation of printers can print physical products from guns to bottle caps. Although 3-D printers have existed for years, the technology is gaining traction as it becomes more affordable.

“Something like this might have cost $250,000 a couple of years ago,” said Lance Cassidy, founder of Raleigh’s DXLab, which uses 3-D printers. “Today it costs just $3,500.”

The printers offer a rapid transition from idea to physical product.

“We might sketch something and we want to see how it looks in the physical world, so 3-D printing is the fastest way to get it out,” Cassidy said.

Inside the printer, a spool of plastic runs through a heater and gets arranged into layers, building an object – a process that takes about 20 minutes and costs only 50 cents, Cassidy said.

“You just build it up, it cools off and you have a physical part,” he said.

The technology is inching closer to the general population, and developers are creating software to make it easier to access.

“Once that barrier is solved, then 3-D printing will be a lot more accessible,” Cassidy said.

Cassidy envisions a future where people can personalize products as they’re being manufactured.

DXLab is sponsoring an event this weekend as part of Triangle Startup Weekend: Maker Edition, where people bring their ideas and work with engineers to create a physical product, starting Friday evening at HQ Raleigh.

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