Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur


The Economist had an article the other week, about the rise of 3D Printing and its potential to upset a lot of assumptions. It was a cool discussion with lots of entertaining examples (such as the printed and playable violin on the cover), but one of the more interesting points was the rise of companies that are making this capability mass-available, including Shapeways.

I've been exploring the Shapeways site, and it's really quite neat. It's kind of like CafePress, only for three-dimensional objects. You design something; you upload it to the site; choose things like what materials to use; and hit "Print". A couple of weeks later, they send you your thingamy. You can sell stuff through the site, and even use them for mass customization: changing extra for one-off customized versions that people can buy.

It drives home that this technology is not only for real, it's approaching the mass-market level. Shapeways is a bit expensive and a bit inconvenient to use -- but only a bit, and it's easy to see how, with a few more years of maturing of the relevant technologies, this stuff could become routine. They already let you choose any of a number of materials (glass, stainless steel, plastic, faux sandstone, etc), to get the effect you're looking for.

Very tempting, and I may find serious uses for this -- for instance, for custom game pieces. A period-style chess set, made out of gold-plated steel, could be quite snazzy. (If a bit ferociously expensive...)
Tags: technology

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