Sunday, December 12, 2010

Post #100: The Coolest Thing I Have Ever Seen

I wasn't sure what to do with my hundredth post; I mean had I made this a daily habit like I wanted to, it would have come and gone long ago and I would have thought little about it. But, since my life ended up being a little too busy to find content to post everyday, I feel entering the triple-digits is quite a milestone. With that in mind, I would like to talk about The Coolest Thing I Have Ever Seen. This is no exaggeration, no sarcasm, not even a speck of non-genuine awe in my feelings about this subject. Nothing has ever wowed me and made me more excited in my life, and I doubt anything cooler will ever come up.
As for what this subject is...brace for potentially anti-climactic info...3D Printers.
Let me explain:  I know 3D printers have been around for a while now and I've known about them for almost as long.  However, they're still not that widely known and the entire concept still excites me so much.
For those who don't know what they are, assuming you haven't guessed by their title, 3D Printers are machines that print 3D models.  So, for example, I could model something in a 3D modeling/animation program (like Maya), import the model into whatever software the 3D Printer uses, and then print out a physical copy of that model.  Having looked at a few different 3D printers, it looks like most of them use something akin to powdered-plastic substance (if that's not exactly what it really is) that gets compressed layer-by-layer to achieve the shape of the model being printed.
As both an animation student and a toy collector, it shouldn't come as a surprise that this is such a cool concept to me.  Shortly after first discovering that these machines existed, I discovered more...coolness.  There are 3D Printers that not only print the models but also colour them.  In fact, the coolest thing I've seen so far was this video I found on youtube yesterday, depicting a printer in use by a UK-based company.

Of course, these machines are incredibly expensive; averaging around $20,000; and it will likely still be a long time before they become common household items.  I have found some great alternatives however.  First off, there are online companies such as Shapeways which are built around having customers submit designs and order prints of them.  Not only can you order prints of your designs from them, but you can also make your designs publicly available and sell prints through these companies.
The second alternative I discovered yesterday is the company MakerBot.  Through their website, you can order (relatively) very low-priced kits to build your own 3D printer. Having no personal experience with these kits, I can't make my own comments on whether they're worth it.  From what I've seen, it's definitely something that you would want to be very hardware-savvy to manage, which I unfortunately am not.
In any case, all of this is beyond cool and even if you have no design skills or plans to make use of 3D printers, they're still absolutely amazing devices.

In conclusion, I strongly urge you to check out the following websites:

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Erik,
    We are seeing thousands of cool objects being 3D printed with Shapeways every month...