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The Future of 3D Printing, According to You

By Nadia Alvarado

I asked what Jameco readers thought would advance 3D printer technology into an everyday consumer product. Many readers predicted an app that will elevate 3D printers into a household item will have the ability to scan an item and print a replica. Rich Lovin in Oregon sees technology already going down that road with Intel focusing on 3D camera technology. From a child's toy to a medical device, anyone would be able to print virtually anything at home.

Readers like Kerry Cassella in Florida and Bob Trout in Indiana took replication one step further and invoked an example from Star Trek. Bob said, "When 3D printers become like the replicators in the Star Trek Next Generation series, then they will become household items. Who wouldn't want to be like Captain Picard sitting at the desk...desiring comfort food or drink, when all he has to say is 'computer; tea, Earl Grey, hot'?"

Other readers' forecasts for 3D printing focused on generating wider interest for at home use by being able to use an array of printing materials other than filament. Dr. Arnold Berger in Washington wrote, "If the technology evolves to the point where fine metal powders can be immersed in a fluid so that it can be printed and then fired in an oven to drive out the fluid while the metal powders fuse to form a solid, then there is a good chance that traditional machining as we know it will disappear." Douglass Brown in California said he would use that option to cast glass, bronze, gold or silver for custom items in a way similar to the old wax casting process. Tom Evans in South Carolina pointed out the potential to make your own small goods at home like jewelry (metal) and candy (edibles).

The majority of the community's predictions about how the technology will advance and why 3D printers will become a ubiquitous home good were succinctly summarized by Dave Xanatos in Massachusetts with what he termed the "3D Printing Trifecta."

"The printer itself will eventually be better, smoother and faster. The second third of the trifecta is a massive and growing open source library of everything you can think of that can be downloaded, along with a growing proprietary library by various manufacturers of their replacement parts which can be purchased, downloaded and printed. The final third will be what turns 3D printing from what it is now, into what it will become famous as: a replicator. To do this, we need high resolution 3D laser scanning that automatically creates the file for printing by scanning existing objects."

3D printed Guitar and Gears Image3D Printed Guitar and Gears

Nadia Alvarado has a master's degree in Journalism from Syracuse University and a bachelor's degree in Economics from San Diego State University. Her interests include comedy, comic books, board games, movies and watching too much TV.