Who can use it?
While 3-D printing in factory settings has been the driver of the industry’s growth, prices have dropped enough to put the machines within reach of small businesses and individual consumers. MakerBot is the leading manufacturer of smaller, at-home 3-D printers, with its “Thing-O-Matic” that sells for $1,299 (less than this reporter’s home computer cost). CEO Bre Pettis explains the machine in simple terms.
“It’s basically like a hot-glue gun that uses the same kind of plastic used to make Legos,” Pettis tells MainStreet. Other machines, like the ones used by Shapeways to create the diversity of objects sold on its online marketplace, work in metals and ceramics, and their higher temperatures mean they aren’t really the safest for use in homes.
While the technology is still in its infancy, innovators have proven how versatile it can be, such as using 3-D printers to make bicycles out of nylon, concrete, chocolate, and even transplantable organs that will one day save human lives.
While the implications of what the technology can do are seemingly infinite, the burgeoning technology has already demonstrated how the consumer goods economy is in store for a major revolution. Here we investigate some of the most promising ways it can make the life of the average consumer better and less expensive.