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A 3D Printer On Every Desktop? 426

Posted by kdawson
from the abs-fab dept.
holy_calamity writes "Two Cornell researchers have designed an open source 3D printer that costs just $2,400. The self-assembly kit is part of what they call the Fab@Home project — they hope it will spark development of rapid prototyping for the consumer market in the same way the Altair 8800 did for personal computing in seventies." Here is a video showing a completed machine constructing a silicone bulb (16-MB WMV).
Update: 01/10 04:02 GMT by KD : The developers of this kit are at Cornell, not Carnegie Mellon University as the original post erroneously stated.
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A 3D Printer On Every Desktop?

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  • hmmmmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by User 956 (568564) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @06:05PM (#17531236) Homepage
    A 3D Printer On Every Desktop?

    I just circled my desk, and it looks like the HP Laserjet I already have exists in 3 Dimensions. Surely this means HP has beaten this other company to market.
  • Heard of Youtube? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AaronBaker2000 (480581) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @06:06PM (#17531246) Homepage
    I'd rather not download a video my computer can't even play. Can some nice person post it on youtube?
  • by istartedi (132515) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @06:06PM (#17531250) Journal

    IP Issues to Hit Action Figure Market. Seems inevitable. Dad, can you print me a few dozen more Ninja Turtles? If it comes with a 3d scanner, kiss Barbie Good-Bye. Mattel becomes the next Sony.

  • that is pretty fucking sweet. I really wouldn't have a use for it, but ~$2500 isn't a bad price.
    • by arth1 (260657)
      that is pretty fucking sweet. I really wouldn't have a use for it, but ~$2500 isn't a bad price.

      I think that's quite expensive for printing out a bulb that doesn't even light up!
    • by numbski (515011) * <numbski@@@hksilver...net> on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @07:06PM (#17532178) Homepage Journal
      Save your money. The API is pretty hosed. I sent a simple command, almost verbatim from the docs, only substituted my own object, and well, it didn't work! Here's the code snippet:

      fab("Earl Grey, Hot");
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I can see a nice use case for plastic surgeons in particular. Here's a sample by-line for the next issue of "Annals of Plastic Surgery" http://www.annalsplasticsurgery.com/ [annalsplasticsurgery.com] - this'll in nicely next to the article "Advances in Mammaplasty - Reversing the droop":

      "Fancy not having to order "parts" from your local Dow Corning rep anymore? Do you desire to offer your customers truly customised b00bs in a variety of shapes? Now you can do both - and they're ready in minutes!"
      • by WhyCause (179039) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @11:40PM (#17534938)
        Nah, that will never happen.

        Surgeons buy pieces from Dow because Dow has spent a lot of time and money certifying the safety of their process and parts with (among others) the FDA. Surgeons buy the parts, and don't have to be too concerned that a manufacturing defect or bad batch of materials slipped past QA. If (God forbid) QA flubs one, the surgeon can (legitimately) blame Dow. If you're doing the QA in your office, however...

        While part of the (exorbitant amounts of) money spent on any sort of health care ensures that everyone involved makes a tidy profit, you are paying much more for the guarantee of safety than anything else.

        In essence, silicone is cheap; the insurance and hassle involved with making a safe part is very much the antithesis of cheap.
  • I wonder (Score:5, Funny)

    by User 956 (568564) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @06:08PM (#17531278) Homepage
    Here is a video showing a completed machine constructing a silicone bulb (16M-MB WMV).

    Given the ungodly expense of regular inkjet cartridges [gizmodo.com], I can only wonder how much the refills for this thing will run.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by kfg (145172)
      The ink in those cartridges costs about a buck. The reason the cartridges are so expensive is because they are a propriatary item for which the printer maker can; and does, charge whatever the market can be forced to bear, usually to make up for the fact that they sold the printer at about cost.

      This fabber is a DIY; open "source" device. You get parts lists and plans, then it's up to you. "Refills" will cost only whatever the raw materials are going for on the open market.

      KFG
    • Re:I wonder (Score:4, Informative)

      by FLEB (312391) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @06:19PM (#17531464) Homepage Journal
      RTFA? It can run on chocolate or Play-Doh.
    • No problem (Score:5, Funny)

      by jspoon (585173) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @06:56PM (#17532032)
      Whenever you get close to running out of material, print another cartridge.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by numbski (515011) *
        "Will, don't you see!?!? Chicken or the egg! CHICKEN OR THE EGG!!!"

        while ($i==0){
            $i=0;
        }
  • Or can you just print your own gold?
  • by traindirector (1001483) * on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @06:10PM (#17531322)

    Building and using one of these seems like a fun and even practical hobby. Ever get frustrated at the plastic parts that break and render something useless? Now you can make replacements. Ever wonder what to get for the person who has everything? Well, I'm pretty sure you could make them a lot of neat personalized things with one of these that they'll be stumped as to where you could have found them.

    This project obviously has a long way to go, but I think the comparison to early personal computers could be fair, given the huge realm of possibilities creating objects in 3D space opens.

  • This would be really cool for lab guys. A 3-d silicon model is so much easier to look at than trying to visualize the 3-d from a 2-d image. How long 'til we see them using it on CSI? :)

    mandelbr0t
  • by PsyQo (1020321) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @06:12PM (#17531352)
    I bet they are printing a new webserver right now.
  • So What's Next Then? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by segedunum (883035) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @06:15PM (#17531390)
    Digital Rights Management for physical objects?
    • by rapett0 (92674)
      Chastity belt? :(
    • by istartedi (132515)

      The objects are generated from files. They'll DRM those. Unsuccessfully of course. Even if you can't get ToyCo's action figure file, you'll easily get the "analog loopholed" version. Analog loophole might not be the right term, but it's the same idea. If it gets really bad, they'll start trying to control the basic materials. We'll end up with a tax on the silicone goo, like the blank media tax. Then every innocent Joe who needs to calk windows will be paying $50/tube for the stuff.

    • by crabpeople (720852) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @07:06PM (#17532172) Journal
      Yeah well thats alot of what critics of DRM have been saying. If you make all these laws for music and drugs, when it comes time for nano forges to roll in, they will be used to enforce an artificial scarcity on everything. What could completely eliminate materialism would end up being for profit, like every other god damned invention.

  • by Kell Bengal (711123) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @06:17PM (#17531430)
    I'm a robotics post grad student, and I often work on robotics hobby projects in my spare time (little of it that there is!). Something affordable like this would rock my world in so many ways. The biggest question I have is how accurate is a self-assembly kit in practice? If you're trying to build prototype mechanisms or moulds for metal with the parts, how tight are your tolerances going to be? That said, for me, if it came down to a new car or a desktop rapid prototyping machine, the rapid prototyping machine will win every single time.
  • by MyOtherUIDis3digits (926429) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @06:18PM (#17531448)
    If the manufacturer's want one of these on every desktop, figure out how it will provide titillation (porn) to Joe User (and me too).

    Worked for the internet, dvd players, VCR's, cable and satellite TV, etc, etc.

    1. (immaterial)
    2. add porn
    3. profit!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Almost any product uses a variety of materials. The trick to using one of these machines is to reduce the number of materials needed. It is a fairly daunting challenge. Suppose that you need a toothbrush. The plastic body is easy but what about the bristles? How about a simple cooking pot? Better make that of metal. Even the simplest products are a beyond the capability of machines like this one. On the other hand, the rewards of coming up with a "Santa Claus Machine" are immense.

    If someone finds a
    • by smbarbour (893880)
      If someone finds a way to make these machines practical, it will completely change the world's economy.

      My tongue-in-cheek answer: Loaded dice. Fund the development of the machines by producing dice to cheat at craps.
    • If someone finds a way to make these machines practical, it will completely change the world's economy.

      The Star Trek replicator economy ensues!

      We won't have to import our consumer goods anymore.

      Raw materials will be valuable.
  • by mark-t (151149) <markt@ l y n x.bc.ca> on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @06:21PM (#17531502) Journal
    If it's possible to use these to "print" inexpensive lego pieces (within 0.005mm precision, iirc) then I am *SO* sold....
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by retro128 (318602)
      Amen. It would be simply awesome if there was a cheap way to print custom parts out of ABS plastic. It may not look the greatest because you'd be able to see the "steps" from the printing process. Because of this I doubt it would be practical to print Lego bricks or such things as that because the layers created during printing are where the part is weakest. When exposed to stress the part would be more likely to break on the layer lines. But even so, for hobbyists it would beat the hell out of having
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RedBear (207369)
      "If it's possible to use these to "print" inexpensive lego pieces (within 0.005mm precision, iirc) then I am *SO* sold...."

      They use 150 TONS of pressure to mold real Lego pieces, and manufacture millions of pieces every year. I don't know what's more hilarious, (A) that you think you'd be able to make copies cheaper with this machine than the mass-produced originals, or (B) that you think this machine has a snowball's chance in Hell of approaching that kind of precision, or, last but not least, (C) that you
  • by AuMatar (183847) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @06:23PM (#17531536)
    When I read fab I was so hoping it could print out a working circuitboard from a custom design. Don't get me wrong, this is cool too. But imagine if we could get a circuit one. Computing has already accepted open source for software, there's some effort of open source hardware designs going on. With the equivalent of this for circuits, we'd put the ability to make new electronics designs in the hands of thousands of hobbyists. Just look at all the cool stuff that hobbyists have made with software, imagine what we be invented if they had hardware as well!

    Now that I think of it- the combination of that and this would be truely awesome. A talented hacker, or a small team, could design software, hardware, and test out of their own homes without expensive produciton costs. It'd be a huge breakthrough.
    • There are a couple of problems with such a printer:

      A. Although you probably could get something to print circuit boards, you'd have one hell of a time printing capacitors, resistors, transistors etc.
      B. As such, you'd have to solder every little piece in by hand.
      C. As such, why couldn't you just use a preexisting solution (i.e. print up a schematic and use a UV light to burn it to a copper clad board)?

      If hobbyists wanted to create open source electronic gizmos they could. However, whereas I can use ./con
    • but there's been a system available for milling the copper off copper-clad to turn them into PCBs for at least a generation... but the last time I looked, it was a few K per system.

      A talented hacker, or a small team, could design software, hardware, and test out of their own homes without expensive produciton costs.

      I put together a team to do this a generation ago, using a BBS for collaboration and the first decent Mac schematic design package for software, though we were stuck with wirewrap for prototypin

  • Buck would be proud (Score:4, Interesting)

    by djupedal (584558) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @06:24PM (#17531546)
    Buckminster Fuller [ourpla.net] wanted to give every other person a lathe, and have the first thing each of them made to be another lathe - so, buy a 3D printer and make another one for a friend :)
  • by linefeed0 (550967) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @06:27PM (#17531590)
    The fabathome wiki indicates Hod Lipson is at Cornell, and CMU's directory has no record of either researcher (which would usually be present for a year or so after leaving the university).

    And I was beginning to think this would be something that would make me *proud* of my alma mater for once...

    Memo to freshman Democrats in Congress: Please please tie research funding to doing useful research, and running an institution well for its students (that means a clean, consistent financial aid system and reasonable tuition), not defense and homeland stupidity pork. Your constituents will thank you.
  • Amazing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by saladpuncher (633633) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @06:31PM (#17531652) Homepage
    Seems a little expensive. Could someone build one of these printers and then print the printer itself and mail it to me? I promise to duplicate it as well and give some to my friends. Seriously though, if I owned a manufacturing company of any any kind I would be scared of this thing. In 30 years you might witness the end of large scale production of small consumer goods. Throwing a party? Print up the plates and forks and chairs and tables you need. Need a gift? Print up some Barbie dolls. In 50 years the only thing that might actually be sold are the plans needed to fabricate something and the "ink" for this thing. If I was very cynical I would say this could end capitalism itself :)
    • by mark-t (151149)
      How recyclable are the materials that you "print"? Can they be readily broken down and reused in another object? It would be ideal if the facilities to do this were self-contained in the unit itself.
    • Re:Amazing (Score:5, Funny)

      by MyHair (589485) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @06:49PM (#17531918) Journal
      If I was very cynical I would say this could end capitalism itself :)


      Capitalism will end when I can print a blow job.
    • by dedazo (737510)

      Seems a little expensive.

      So were VCRs when they first came out. My dad bought a top-loading Sony Betamax gig the size of a small fridge in 1980 that used a cable remote for about ~$2,500. Ditto for DVD players. Remember the first ones? $1,000 and up and big as a brick? Last year I bought a Samsung about two inches thick that does DTS and has an HDMI input at Costco for $60. So it goes.

      I think this thing has incredible potential, and if enough people buy it it will eventually commoditize itself.

    • This is the goal of the RepRap project [wikipedia.org]. The idea is that the tool will eventually be able to print all of its parts from raw materials.

      It's a lofty goal, but a good one.

      Honestly, I'm thinking about making a fabathome machine just for the tinkering. How many times have you wished that you just had something to mess with that was custom?
    • If I was very cynical I would say this could end capitalism itself :)

      I doubt it; After all, a large manufacturing company has the resources to build thousands of these things and buy the raw materials in massive quantities, lowering their total price greatly.

      Then there is the idea of convenience. Sure, I could print up 24 forks for my party, but it might take an hour or two or four depending on the speed of the thing - or, I could walk down to the dollar store and grab a pack of 100. I also don't have to ma

    • Re:Amazing (Score:4, Funny)

      by Frogbert (589961) <frogbert@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @07:12PM (#17532264)
      In 30 years you might witness the end of large scale production of small consumer goods.
      And witness the rise of overpriced 3D printer cartridge manufacturing!
  • by McGoon76 (707601) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @06:44PM (#17531844)
    Nuf said...
  • Can this thing assemble (a copy of) itself?

    Also, back to the programming-languages famous problem — can it output its own design document(s) in some format?

  • by gigne (990887) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @06:46PM (#17531872) Homepage Journal
    Surely this is just plans for a CNC goo dispensing machine? I modded a £120 manual milling machine to laser acetate, surely it's only 1 more step to attach a syringe and screw thread dispenser. Total cost £200. Seems a hell of a lot cheaper than $2500 (estimated, it's plans remember)
  • Fixing things... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Qubit (100461)
    I just tried to repair the handle on a steam cleaner (it had broken in half). I don't think I could buy a replacement handle for ANY price (it's an older-model, non-industrial machine), but I could just scan and re-fab one with this machine.

    I'm also missing a foot for my laptop (it popped off at some point). Again, I could just print one in a couple of minutes...

    Like most /.ers, I'm continually fixing things and trying to create new tools and bins and toys in my workshop -- with a 3D printer, we can just th
    • I have a similar problem with a radio.
      The tuning capasitor(sp) works but the plastic know broke.
      Even if it is not cheap it is better than throwing it away.
      Though I wouldn't do that either.

      As for CAD, I don't know.
      I do know that if you want one before these are common then you have alot of time.
  • You know, for kids (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BoberFett (127537) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @07:19PM (#17532344)
    Anyone who has kids knows how quickly modern toys break. Parents are also well aware of the fact that toys rarely last on the shelf for more than a season and trying to get a manufacturer to send spare parts is damn near impossible. The possibility of open source toys, or at the very least replacement parts for closed source toys, is enticing. If these things can come down to a reasonable price (they also need some advances as far as color output) I think they could become quite popular.

    PS A cookie to the first person who can tell me what movie the subject of my post is from. :)
  • by NitsujTPU (19263) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @07:22PM (#17532402)
    Hod Lipson is a professor at Cornell University, not Carnegie Mellon, and the Cornell shield is completely visible in the photo, as are the words "Cornell University."
  • by DumbSwede (521261) <slashdotbin@hotmail.com> on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @09:22PM (#17533802) Homepage Journal
    Call me a cynic, but this thing hardly looks ready for primetime. In fact it looks to work far worse than 3D prototype printers I saw demonstrated 5-7 years ago did.

    "Two Carnegie Mellon researchers..." translation: "Two graduate students' thesis project"

    For those that didn't watch the video, it looks like a time-lapse speed up of a caterpillar building a cocoon. Seriously it has an almost creepy organic look. There is no time mark on the video so there is no indication of how long this thing took to build. The shape is brain-dead simple. Can it spin anything more complex than a circle as it builds? What good is a printer that can only make balls, cylinders, and bulbs? Presumably this item is flexible being made of silicone rubber, but that seems to be more a side effect of it being built on the cheap with off the shelf materials. It even had to be "refilled" half way through building this rather small bulb, which is mostly air to start with!

    For all the people than mentioned using this device to repair things around the house, I hope the only thing that ever breaks around your house is your turkey baster (assuming this thing can print a bulb that large).

    As has been mentioned by other posters, these machines will only become truly useful when they can extrude a variety of materials with a variety of material properties. I would imagine you could get a range of properties in stiffness and heat resistance by varying proportions of two or three basic plastic polymers with perhaps a few additional curing additives. Rather than demand a 100% build from scratch perhaps a few standard sized metal reinforcement parts could be thrown into the mix, though this would require a pause while the machine requested user assistance to add screws, rings, dowels, or thread a wire or two.

    Really useful auto manufacturing will require serious breakthroughs in AI and robotics to assembling a variety of fabricated parts into something useful, only then will manufacturing prices plummet. Keep in mind we have had auto-milling machines for decades and they haven't obsoleted most manufacturing processes. They can also mill into custom shapes a much wider range of materials.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by TubeSteak (669689)

      Can it spin anything more complex than a circle as it builds? What good is a printer that can only make balls, cylinders, and bulbs?

      It didn't spin anything.

      Here's a hi-res pic showing off the complete chassis [fabathome.org]

      Like most rapid prototyping machines, it has an X, Y, & Z axis.
      The picture makes this very clear.
      From the rest of your post, it seems kinda obvious that you didn't RTFA

      Really useful auto manufacturing will require serious breakthroughs in AI and robotics to assembling a variety of fabricated parts i

  • The Modela MDX-15 [gravers.com] is only $2995.

    It's not only a mill, but a 3d scanner too.

    For all of you drooling over the $2400 price tag, is $600 more really so much to ask?

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