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Hardware Hacking

A 3D Printer On Every Desktop? 426

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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  • Heard of Youtube? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AaronBaker2000 ( 480581 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @07:06PM (#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 @07:06PM (#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.

  • by traindirector ( 1001483 ) * on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @07:10PM (#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.

  • by MyOtherUIDis3digits ( 926429 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @07:18PM (#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 Speare ( 84249 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @07:20PM (#17531480) Homepage Journal
    Mattel is ALREADY the next Sony; more like Sony is just copying Mattel Barbie legal tactics from the 60s.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @07:21PM (#17531496)
    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 way to make these machines practical, it will completely change the world's economy. Countries like India and China will lose their cheap labor advantage. We won't have to import our consumer goods anymore. The mind boggles.
  • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <> on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @07:21PM (#17531502) Journal
    If it's possible to use these to "print" inexpensive lego pieces (within 0.005mm precision, iirc) then I am *SO* sold....
  • by linefeed0 ( 550967 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @07:27PM (#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 @07:31PM (#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 gigne ( 990887 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @07:46PM (#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)
  • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @08:05PM (#17532158)
    When they get better with metals and ceramics we can kiss any sort of gun control goodbye.

    You can just go to the home store and buy fabbed metals.

    The only thing standing between you and a zip gun right now is a few tools, twenty bucks and a bit of knowledge. The knowledge is available on the web.

    Effective gun control has always been as impossible as effective DRM. It's medieval technology for goodness sake. At heart a gun is nothing more than a tube, a pebble and something to make the pebble leave the tube really, really fast.

  • by crabpeople ( 720852 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @08:06PM (#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 MyOtherUIDis3digits ( 926429 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @08:21PM (#17532382)
    I think you are better off investing the $2500 in hookers.
    With that kind of money, even I could get laid.

    Think about it though. Someone else mentioned making your own RealDoll. What if it could make a life-like inanimate (has both good and bad points) object that will look exactly like anyone you can supply a picture of? Guys would be lining up (anonymously, of course) to buy two of these just in case the first one breaks.

    As Dennis Miller said a few years ago, "The day virtual reality allows Joe Sixpack to fuck Claudia Shieffer for $19.95, it will make crack look like aspirin."
  • by Ben174 ( 853174 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @08:22PM (#17532410) Homepage Journal
    Why not be the nice person yourself? Even if you can't play it, you could still upload it to youtube, then watch it :)
  • by Eccles ( 932 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @08:31PM (#17532534) Journal
    I'm not that much of a Trek geek, I don't think, but isn't it "Tea, Earl Gray, hot"? I doubt you wanted to replicate the actual Earl...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @09:00PM (#17532886)
    There is always the contrast between theory and practice. For instance, communism as practiced in North Korea might come as a bit of a shock to Karl Marx. Similarly, Adam Smith might find a lot lacking in the American version of capitalism.

    Having said the above, a small scale versitile fabricating machine might make capitalism work better. It would remove barriers to entry that distort the economic system.

    The advantage of the capitalist system is very similar to the advantage of open source software. Adam Smith envisioned the unseen hand of the market. In other words, the economic system would be largely self regulating because of the supply-demand feedback loop. Top down control of the economy (like top down control of the programming process) simply isn't as efficient as distributed control.

    So, I see open source as re-vitalizing the computer industry and I see versitile fabrication re-vitalizing the economy. It will be good for capitalism, not necessarily for large corporations though.
  • by jZnat ( 793348 ) * on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @09:44PM (#17533380) Homepage Journal
    MPlayer (and in general, FFmpeg) can decode everything you mentioned in your post and more, and it's GPL.
  • by suv4x4 ( 956391 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @10:24PM (#17533824)
    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.

    Thing is I doubt people will use a 3D silicon printer to print Barbie dolls. Have you seen the things the printer prints? They are pretty crude.

    Even commercial hugely expensive 3D printers, where each model can be colored and incredibly detailed, uses combinations of special powder, glues and ink (as in ink jets), and isn't something that's safe or durable enough for a kid to play with.

    Not to mention it has no any "actions", arm/leg flexibility, let alone remote controlled functionality or so on.

    A mass produced toy will be always superior to what you can do with a rapid prototype printer, let alone an amateur single nozzle one, unless some totally new form of 3D printing is invented, with such diversity in materials and complexity, that I can print myself a laptop.

    And if I can do this.. then Mattel won't be the only one hit by IP issues..
  • by tuomas_kaikkonen ( 843958 ) * on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @11:08PM (#17534200) Homepage
    You're onto something important there!

    The printout should be easy to recycle back into print "ink". Perhaps using temperature to melt it down. So this material would be the "draft" test printout material that you print, heat, recycle, and print again with same material. Then when you got the final printout right, you would switch to the release quality material that is more robust. Or then again, just use the printed out "draft" version to make a mold and cast release materials.

    What do you think?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @12:25AM (#17534812)
    What the fuck? And people are saying that Linux is ready for the desktop?
  • by WhyCause ( 179039 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @12:40AM (#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.
  • Re:hmmmmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Gospodin ( 547743 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @09:35AM (#17538222)

    Because this is a computer-oriented forum, and here we realize that P implies Q does not mean that not-P implies not-Q. Duh!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @09:42AM (#17538328)
    ...the biggest hurdle to custom toys is sculpting the initial prototype. Once you have that prototype, though, it's a no brainer to cast molds off of it. So this may open alot of doors for those who can't sculpt very well but might be able to find our way around Blender/3DSMax/etc.
  • by RedBear ( 207369 ) <> on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @06:45PM (#17547896) Homepage
    "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 think you could make a fake Lego piece with this kind of machine that has even a fraction of the structural strength of the originals. What's the point? You do know you can buy bulk boxes of Lego pieces, right? There is no way you're ever going to make anything cheaper that would be worth using.

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