Rise of 3-D printing: How a little machine can turn an apartment into a factory
Published Tuesday, February 26, 2013 11:03AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, February 26, 2013 11:52AM EST
A rise in the popularity of 3-D printing could one day revolutionize the manufacturing industry: just ask two enthusiasts who have transformed the technological trend into a full-fledged jewelry making business.
The printers have the ability to build objects layer-by-layer through replication of a digital image or model.
Rendering three dimensional objects from digital images is not new, but as the technology becomes cheaper and more widely available, it’s becoming more popular and accessible to people with innovative ideas of how to use it.
Recognizing the potential, Torontonians Matt Compeau and Bi-Ying Miao have built an entire “factory” in their tiny apartment.
Using scans and a printer called a Makerbot Replicator, the pair are creating jewellery in the comfort of their home, using only a 3-D printer, a desktop computer and software tools.
The pieces, including necklaces and rings, are sold online through their company Hot Pop Factory.
While Hot Pop’s jewelry pieces are made of ABS plastic -- the same material Lego is made of – 3-D printers can accommodate a wide variety of materials, depending on the model.
Miao said 3-D printers are being used to replicate chocolates, full-size car parts -- even stem cells.
“The full spectrum is very rich,” she said in an interview on Canada AM Tuesday.
Currently, it’s mostly an art form for entrepreneurs and techies, Campeau said, as the growing market appeal continues to drive production prices down.
“Right now it’s at the hobbyist-hacker level where people are trying to piece them together in their basements, trying to make this stuff work and try to bring it to the mass market,” Campeau said.
At the Textile Museum of Canada, Campeau and Miao 3-D-scanned a classic Eames chair, before re-interpreting it digitally and creating a vertebrae-like reproduction.
“That’s the fun part about it, you can take things from the physical world, into the digital one, and then plop them back into reality in a totally different way,” Campeau said.
Despite its popularity, 3-D printing is also causing concern over copyright infringement, as it opens up the potential for anyone to print a product by simply downloading designs.
There is also concern about the potential for danger, as there are movements afoot to develop a fully printable firearm.