Friday, May 22, 2009

What Font Are You Using?

I recently got to see a three dimensional printer in action at the office of my dentist Jim Gregory. After Dr. Gregory drilled out the center of my tooth, he used a handheld video device that created a 3D computer model of what was left.

Dr. Gregory then used the tooth model to create a filling model. He uploaded the filling model to a Sirona Cerec 3, essentially a 3D printer for tooth fillings. He selected a tooth blank that matched the color of my teeth and put it in the machine.

This particular printer is a subtractive printer. It removes material from the tooth blank to create the tooth filling Dr. Gregory has on his finger. The filling is simple to fasten to my tooth with a smelly bonding material because it fits perfectly.

As usual for a new technology, high-end applications like tooth repair are the first to utilize small 3D printers.

Wouldn't be cool if you could design and print 3D objects or at work or home? Without the need for local anesthesia? Desktop Factory is developing a 3D printer for under $5,000. Their stated goal is to sell a 3D printer for under $1,000. Since they promised their first sub-$5,000 printer in 2008, and it hasn't shipped midway through 2009, don't hold your breath for the sub-$1,000 model. Here is a video of the Desktop Factory printer at work.

The current Desktop Factory printer appears to have low spatial resolution. Nevertheless, for product designers who want a quick test of a concept, the current device will speed up product prototyping and design feedback.

As spatial resolution improves, low-cost 3D printers will enable a host of new applications much more valuable than tooth repair and product development. For instance, spare parts could be stored virtually in a 3D printer database, and then printed both when and where needed. Maybe you could design the first product that never became obsolete.

No comments:

Post a Comment