Hi there. In America now. On my way to Europe momentarily. I decided to browse through the internet for recent news in 3D printing. One blog entry about the legal problems of printing weapons (specifically, a rifle magazine of 10 rounds. More than 10 can put you in prison!) And another article about how thieves used a 3D printer to steal 400,000 USD! Oh and 3D systems has released another printer that is not cheap ($14,500) but prints in 6 colours and is 5 times faster than similar printers. The right sort of price for schools, offices and maybe the odd consumer. If you think consumers would buy it, remember that the first Personal Computers like the Macintosh cost half that.
I spent time in NYC checking out the sights and of course, MakerFaire 2011. I saw a few cool things, but I came for the 3D printers. Makerbot was there....and I saw a few printers Ive always wanted to see. Fab@home wasn't as impressive as i thought. Been kind of skeptical of their syringe methods. But printing in Fudge is always a big hit with the audience. Techzone was there...but Ive built their Huxley and it was a BITCH. I met the good men of Buildatron and loved their work. Their new printer is derived from the same Huxley. I wanted to help them out and share a few of my own solutions but sadly there was no time. Ultimaker was kicking butt...by far the best competitor in my opinion. 3D systems was out in force in disguise with their latest acquisition, BotMill. I hate and fear 3D systems simply because of their size and aggressive take-over the industry. I have a good feeling its going to be something like a wack-a-mole. To be fair, a product that can reproduce most of its components is likely an unsellable item. As long as the technology is difficult to use and quality is hard to come by, they'll be fine. But the fact is that quality, speed and materials are following a pseudo-Moore's Law. Perhaps 10 years down the road 3D systems will simply transition to consulting because they can't compete with cheaper models, just like Xerox. (Xerox was forced by anti-trust agencies to give up its patents to photocopy technology in the 1970s. In 10 years they went from 100% marketshare to something like ... 20%?? Guess why? The Japanese made better ones)
The take-away? 3D Printing was representing! The public is becoming a little more aware and they have ideas of their own. That bodes very well for us. But this is still a hacker/DIY arena to play in because .... we dont have the ol' "3D Print" button ready....its a difficult enterprise to print things. So Apple introduced GUI to computer and made a quantum leap (Again, THANK YOU XEROX) in computer-consumer interface. Let's see what comes down the pipeline cost/interface -wise.