3-D Printers

Imagine being able to print an action hero out for your kid, a pair of shoes for a night on the town, or perhaps a gourmet meal for dinner. Well strangely enough 3-D printers are slowly making their way into the lives of everyday people.

According to CNNMoney, in the past 20 years 3-D printers have slowly been creeping into American industry, but up until now were generally limited to industries such as aerospace and automobile due to their cost.

However engineers now believe that 3-D printers will soon become a household item. Rajeev Kulkarni, vice president of global engineering at 3D Systems, estimates that the cheapest 3-D printers five years ago were $25,000 – $50,000. Today they are available for as little as $1,000.

Kulkarni discusses 3D Systems desires to position itself at the forefront of what it calls the “democratization” of 3-D printers. In other words, 3D Systems desires to take their company from the large systems level to that of the consumer, whereby 3-D printing would be accessible to the general public.

3D Systems recently partnered with software makers Autodesk and Alibre on all-in-one printing kits. The all-in-one 3D printers start at $1,500 for the Alibre-powered RapMan model.

Kulkarni believes it is just the beginning of 3-D printing industry. In fact, Wohlers Associates, an independent consulting firm that has tracked the growing popularity of the printers, estimates the industry to grow from $1.3 billion in 2010 to $5.2 billion in 2020.

Even more incredible and astonishing is the discussion of the possibility of printing organs. According to an article by the Washington Post, it’s something that is definitely in the works. In the early 2000’s scientists and doctors began to use this technology to construct living tissue.

They call the process 3-D bio-printing. If this amazing technological advancement takes off, the waiting line for organs could become a thing of the past. Although scientists speculate that they have already been successful in printing both skin and vertebral disks, they believe they are years if not decades away from producing more complex organs such as the heart and lungs. Scientists speculate that the biggest challenge lies not in the making of the organ itself, but in the replication of the intricate network of blood vessels.