Thursday, November 30, 2006

3D Printing - Rapid Prototyping

3D printing has now become available for the small businesses and hopefully soon in a price range for homes and schools.

Z Corp is one of the leading companies in this technology. An HP print head is used in a 3D printer that prints on layers of powder. 3D software is used to print to a machine on layers of powder. The printer releases a binding material on the layers of white powder to form the model. Just brush away the excess powder and voila...the new 3D model is revealed.

Previously any type of protoype models were made in clay - each model would take about 4 hours to make, less detailed, hard to make and any changes were very difficult to make - now models can be made in several hours and several models can be printed at once. Companies that use this new technology say how easy it is to make copies for clients and colleagues.

Some companies use a plastic material to produce the models rather than the powder - this produces a much sturdier prototype.

The Z Corp 3D print machines run from about 20,000 - 50,000 (US) with high end machines that print in colour. Presently anyone can take a design to a 3D printer and for several hundred dollars have your prototype become a 3D print model. But Z Corp is hoping to bring the 3D printer to the home user.

Some similar lathes are being used in high-end technology programs in schools around the world. The lathes are quite complicated, messy and expensive to purchase. This "print" technology has made it a whole lot easier and cheaper. Think of the uses this product could bring to so many different curriculum areas in the classroom!

See the complete story in video at: Business Week

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