Desktop Factory got a lot of attention last week with their announcement of a 3D printer for less than $5,000.
Most 3D printers use ink-jet printing technology and spray fine beads of plastic or resin instead of ink. These beads build up to create freestanding objects.
According to the Desktop Factory site:
"The Desktop Factory 3D printer builds robust, composite plastic parts that can be sanded and painted, or flamed when desired."
3D printers have already had a significant impact on product design and development. Prototypes can be built quickly and cheaply. Users can test and comment earlier and more often in the development process. And problems can be caught prior to manufacturing.
3D printers are also used to make final products. Siemens and Phonak use them to make silicon earbuds for music players and a variety of manufacturers print small runs of plastic and resin products.
Just as laser printers connected to PCs led to desktop publishing, low cost PC driven machine tools such as 3D printers and laser cutters are unleashing a wave of small-scale manufacturing innovation. This is creating new manufacturing opportunities for small and personal businesses.
We discuss 3D printers, desktop manufacturing and their impact on small business manufacturing n our New Artisan Economy research report.