3D Office Printers
What do you mean ‘3D Office Printer’?
Imagine being able to print your own custom 3D business cards or paperclips. Take this a step further and imagine printing personalised coffee mugs or even ipad docks.
Now imagine engaging in office warfare with your colleagues using catapults and plastic that you have designed and printed in 3D!
Are you insane? I hear you ask
Actually this idea is not as far-fetched as it sounds, and in fact the technology has been around for at least 20 years. Although high-end machines can cost £100,000 or more, the price has been dropping in recent years and there are now more affordable machines on the market.
For instance, Makerbot industries have developed a consumer machine that can be used in the home or office and it currently retails for around £1100 for a basic 1-colour machine, or £1,270 for a 2-colour system.
How Does It Work?
The Makerbot 3D printers uses a type of technology called ‘extrusion’. This is a process in which a spindle of plastic thread is unravelled at a speed of 40 millimetres per second. The thread is melted and then fed through a printing head to build up the object layer by layer.
The objects can be designed using free cad programs such as Google Sketchup and then stored onto a memory card sent directly from a computer to the 3D printer.
The high end machines can be used to create prototypes for manufacturing,
“A MakerBot can be an indispensable tool for the office. If something breaks, like a doorknob, you can just make a new one, along with the pliers to fix it. Employees can create their own custom 3D business cards or personalize their desks with 3D-printed iPad docks and coffee mugs. If you want to be a master in office warfare, you can even print out trebuchets and catapults to attack your unsuspecting co-workers.”
Bre Pettis, founder of MakerBot Industries
Other office uses might include:
- Cable Holders
- Clips for attaching pens to notebooks
- Office Desk organisers
With this kind of technology at our fingertips, it’s easy to imagine offices of the future simply printing its office stationery, business cards and even smaller items of office furniture.
For home use there are consumer 3D printers coming soon that will allow you to ‘print’ plastic dolls, bicycle parts, vases, machine components, tools, jewellery, fashion items (such as belt buckles) and other small objects. These designs will be made available by the original manufacturers. For instance Barbie will allow consumers to download a doll design and ‘print’ it on their machine at home.
You will also be able to ‘print’ replacement parts instead of having to get them directly from the manufacturer.
There is even a company called Shapeways based in New York that will ‘print’ an iPhone case of your baby crying! They basically take the wave form and turn it into an image, and then print this image into a shaped form compatible with an iPhone case.
Future 3D Printing Technology
It’s often said that anything human beings can imagine will eventually come true. Although 3D printing sounds like a storyline lifted straight out of a Star Trek episode, the future of 3D printing holds enormous potential.
There is talk of 3D printers being able to replicate body parts, blood vessels and even producing machines such as cars. A company called 3D System already utilises ‘pixel by pixel’ printing in some of its more advanced machines and can print plastics, metals, powders, nylons and liquids which means that replicating ‘Star Trek’ style is almost a reality!