Home 3D printing services are already a reality with the surprisingly affordable Makerbot Replicator and 3D Systems’ The Cube which allow you to print in home, albeit in monotone, in plastic and only up to a certain size.
If you’re a hobbyist, amateur designer or run a small enterprise the following are what you may find on your desktop in the near future, the latest in 3D printing services and home manufacturing.
Light Based 3D printing
If it is the resolution and detail that frustrates you with existing 3D printing technology then these might be what you need to invest in, for businesses especially providing a 3D Printing service you need to be able to offer a high standard especially if you are competing against manufacturers using mass production techniques.
Stereolithography uses liquid resins rather than the materials most home 3D printers currently use, which comes as a reel of string. The liquid resins can be placed in very small amounts in very thin layers by print heads and are then cured using strong lights, usually UV.
These will be available soon from BC9 Creator but many companies may follow suit and the likes of 3D systems already use the technology in high end 3D printers aimed at those running professional 3D printing services.
At $2,500 to $4,000 will BC9 Creator’s products be good value or bad value? Initially they’re likely to be popular with small companies such as designers and architects who need a 3D printing service for product development or for models such as architects’ models. They cost twice that of the more basic Cube from 3D Systems but much less than 3D Systems’ own Stereolithographic printers.
Mini CNC Mills
CNC mills aren’t new technology and their future may look limited against 3D Printers, however a CNC mill has its advantages and is about the same cost as the cheapest desktop 3D printers starting at round $900.
CNC mills can also be cheaper to run as they can be used with a much wider range of materials crucially including wood. Wood is readily available and a material that many designer and hobbyists like to work with. Those who want to create detailed carvings on wood and other materials will find CNC machines such as those made by Roland or ShopBot ideal. The main disadvantage of a CNC mill of course is that you can’t mill internal detail and can only mill from one side at a time.
These may seem to have limited use but if cheap enough they could become popular in restaurants, Chocolateries and other small food producers, along with larger premium food producers.
Then again if prices really come down there is no reason why these couldn’t become a must have kitchen gadget not least amongst those who love to show off when they have a dinner party.
Early 3D food printer versions print in one food type and chocolate has been a popular choice as it is easily melted and set. Foods like Toffee and cheese may be other options in future though the ability to melt and set is important for printing and means many foods aren’t going to be suitable.
As well as those that provide true 3D printing are those that mill food and so can be used on many foods to cut away to make a detail pattern.