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3D offers a new generation of printing

Posted November 4, 2013

— 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.

Carol Mangis of Consumer Reports 3D printing offers new possibilities

“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.

6 Comments

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  • solomon7746 Nov 7, 1:56 p.m.

    I am a 3d designer for 3d printing. While yes some of the comments posted state that this has been around for a while, what is new is what can be printed. You can now print in materials such as stainless steel , silver, brass, platinum , copper , you can print rubber, glass , and so on.. Most of my clients come from NYC or over seas places where more people know about.. For example BMW now 3d print their rims for their cars.
    Most of what I do is creating jewelry or prototypes for my clients. http://solo3ddesign.webs.com/

  • Mon Account Nov 6, 1:55 p.m.

    There are many types of resins out there. The resin for the gun was chosen for the purpose intended.

    Commercial printer resin is most likely either average or low quality due to the nature of the product.

  • junkmail5 Nov 6, 10:40 a.m.

    Well, many of the resins are weak.. some are better than others.

    there's 3D printed guns that have reliably fired hundreds of rounds for example.

    And the materials and printers will only get better and cheaper.

    (which means in 5-10 years the entire gun control argument will be utterly moot... not that it's especially hard to make one today with just a drill press anyway)

  • albegadeep Nov 6, 8:49 a.m.

    Seems a bit behind the times. 3D printers have been around since the '80s. (I even have a 3D-printed object here on my desk.) Liquid and powder raw materials are more common than the plastic rolls mentioned in the article. The biggest problem is strength - many of the resins used are fairly weak; you can print a wrench, but if you try to use it on a stuck bolt, it'll break.

  • Dr Sanchez Nov 5, 12:55 p.m.

    What is a lazer printer?

  • superman Nov 5, 12:44 p.m.

    I am still using my lazer printer than prints black. Seldom if ever need anything printed in color but I do have a color lazer printer.