3D offers a new generation of printing
Posted November 4, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — When you hear printer, you think of that machine that spits out paper and photos. 3D printers are completely different devices that create three-dimensional objects. They’re like mini-manufacturing plants for your home.
Consumer Reports tested three, costing from $800 to almost $3,000, to see what they can do.
These high tech printers have the capability to print almost anything that you can think of, including a chess board, Stars Wars characters and even a miniature Empire State Building.
“You feed them a blueprint that you’ve designed, and out comes a three-dimensional object,” Carol Mangis of Consumer Reports said.
Using a 3D printer is still possible for less tech-savvy folks who don’t know how to create a blueprint of the computer.
“There are a lot of free designs, right on the web. You can go to thingverse or cubify.com and look for thousands of designs right there,” Mangis said.
Consumer Reports tested three printers, one from MakerBot, 3DSystems and Solidoodle.
Understandably, the printing process is slow, especially depending on what you want to print. Basically, you are feeding the machine a roll of plastic or some other material to build the object layer by layer. Even building a small object can take hours.
“I would say, for now, the machines that you can purchase are really for hobbyists, DIY enthusiasts, people who are really captivated by this idea and want to play with it. They’re not super-practical yet,” Mangis said.
One of the main reasons 3D printers are not practical is their high cost. However, they are expected to drop in price quickly.
Many industries are already using 3D printers. For example, General Electric just created a model jet engine out of metal using a 3D printer. Dentists are also using these printers to make things like retainers and mouth guards.