How many exhibitors of 3D printing showed up at a big trade fair? 300.

That’s the number showing up at the Euromold trade fair in Frankfurt, from a report from The Economist, The shape of things to come. From the article:

It was here that 300 or so exhibitors working in three-dimensional printing (or “additive manufacturing” as they prefer to call it) were gathered.

The range of items that can be printed today include shoes and dresses, which is very nice.  Even better are the exhaust manifolds and artificial legs.  Cool!

Consider an artificial hip.  Not only can it be created on a 3D printer, it could be fine tuned to the exact shape and dimensions needed to fit a specific recipient.  In addition, the detail structure of the artificial hip can be set to mimic a real bone which makes it easier for the body to grab on to it. Check out this comment:

Each hip can be crafted precisely for the intended patient. All that is required is a slight tweak of the software that controls the printer. Even better, the technique can do something that not even a human craftsman could manage: it can copy in the titanium of which the implant is made, the fine, lattice-like internal structure of natural bone. This makes the implant lighter, without loss of strength. It also lets it integrate easily with the patient’s actual bone.

I’m amazed: a replacement made of titanium, lighter than yesterday’s model, tailored to your body, that your bone grabs easier.

Check out the full article.  Even better, check out the Digital Fabrication link under Related Topics.

I did and found an article from February, Print me a Stradivarius, which has great background.  It also gave me the first indicator of prices that I have seen (of course, I haven’t looked very hard):

But like computing before it, 3D printing is spreading fast as the technology improves and costs fall. A basic 3D printer, also known as a fabricator or “fabber”, now costs less than a laser printer did in 1985.

I would not have bought a laser printer in 1985.  However, today I have two in my office. One color and one black and white. The black-and-white printer is my workhorse. I’ve been using it for eight years.  I wouldn’t hesitate to buy another, but don’t need to.  This one is still working great.  At low per-page cost.  With no maintenance.

Think what will happen to the price of a 3D printer in the next 10 years.  Imagine having a couple of laser printers and a 3D printer in your office.  Way cool!

Would have been very handy last week when I spent a few days looking for a very specific part for the handle on a faucet.  Can’t find it anywhere.  Ten years from now I could just print one.

Even better, 3D printing is starting to be economically competitive with traditional manufacturing:

But 3D printing has now improved to the point that it is starting to be used to produce the finished items themselves…. It is already competitive with plastic injection-moulding for runs of around 1,000 items, and this figure will rise as the technology matures.

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