Where will 3D printing in the home take us?

In Holland, a Dutch architect has designed a house to be built entirely with a 3D printer. That may be a little too bleeding edge (and non-fire resistant) for most people, home 3D printing was hot at the recent Consumer Electronics Showcase in Las Vegas, and could be coming soon to your (more structurally sound) home.

It’s not really a new technology. 3D printing has been used for industrial and commercial applications for years, such as making on-site pre-production models for testing and design purposes. Advancing technology, though, is helping to bring down prices and make the technology (somewhat) more affordable for the consumer market.

We’re not talking inkjet affordable, mind you. The CubeX 3D printer from 3D Systems, which was showcased at CES, starts at US$2,599 for a single-colour model, US$3,599 for the two-colour and US$4,399 for the three-colour model. It can print using two different kinds of plastic (Polylactic Acid and Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) in the same job. A more basic home model, the Cube printer, starts at US$1,399.

While the technology holds promise for home use, Evan Hardie, senior analyst for printing and hardcopy peripherals, points to some issues in a recent blog:

“What might stand in the way of this technology becoming ubiquitous are the potential legal ramifications of printing or scanning/mocking-up of copy written objects. Quick and easy 3D capture techniques that can use smartphones to scan three dimensional objects for printing, will make it tempting to just overlook intellectual property rights and replicate existing objects in their exact dimensions. Manufacturers could decide to crack down on the availability of 3D CAD data files that break international copy right laws. This would be particularly relevant with the printing of restricted objects such as weapons. On the other hand, enthusiasts are more likely to turn to online communities, which have already begun to sprout, to share designs and even instructions on how to build your own 3D printer. The other obstacle that is presently hindering the appeal of 3D printing is the limited number of consumer applications available. Similar to the new “ultra high definition” 4K televisions, which need content that can make full use of the added resolution to sell, home 3D printers will only survive if users have exciting, functional or useful solid objects to print.”

Need a new basketball? Just print one.

Source | The Printed Page

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.

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