Saturday, May 12, 2007

First, the tricorder, then a deflector shield, and now...finally a replicator for the masses!

Holy crap. All the Star Trek technology is coming to be! Granted it's a bit of a stretch on this one, but it's a start.

The first affordable Desktop Factory 3D printer is just about to ship, paving the way for even more sophisticated manufacturing in the future. This first home 3D printer will cost between $5,000 and $7,000 and will be roughly the size of early laser printers. Starting out with powdered plastic, it layers the plastic material so precisely that it exactly conforms to the software 3D model that serves as its guide.

Similar 3D printers used for quick design protyping have been available for around ten years, but the $15,000 devices have been prohibitively expensive, owned only by major corporations and researchers. However, more-accessible Desktop Factory technology is just the beginning of 3D printing, where scientists foresee even more complex products being manufactured as the printers get exponentially more sophisticated.

Could this be another example of Star Trek tech becoming a reality? This home 3D printer brings us closer to the day when we'll have replicators like those on Star Trek: The Next Generation, making entire meals at the touch of a button and creating complex objects from simple materials. In the meantime, soon you'll be able to download spare parts for toys and build them in a few minutes, or even prototype your own designs, right in your home.

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