3D Printing and You

July 8, 2012 • Posted by cmccoy in News • • 0 comments  

3D Printing and You

by Tech Blogger, Lisa Urwick

When you think of a computer printer, the image that comes to mind is a gray box sitting on your desktop next to your printer.  This printer is perfect for printing letters and documents.  However, what if you want to print an apple?  Not just a picture of an apple but a real 3D likeness of an apple?  Science fiction, you might say – not anymore!

 

3D printing is becoming more common as entrepreneurs and manufacturers try to find ways to perfect a product without going through the enormous expense of actually producing a prototype each time a change is made.  I recently sat down with Christopher McCoy, the designer and creator of the “BuddyGripper”, a portable device mount and stand for smart-phones, to discuss how 3D printing helped him to perfect his product at a fraction of the time and cost is would have taken normally.

“3D printing has been around for about the last 20 years or so, but is only recently becoming available to the average person due to reduced costs of owning or renting time on such a printer,” explained McCoy.  “To use a 3D printing machine is relatively easy with some of the 3D software programs available on computer websites such as www.123Dapp.com by Autodesk or new services like www.you3Dit.com.”

McCoy explained the process of exactly how 3D printing works by saying that “most 3D printers use ABS plastic, which is a very standard type of plastic, to build up a model layer by layer.  However, 3D printers can use a variety of materials depending on the application.  For example, if a doctor used a CAT scan model of a bone they would like to replace in a person, they could conceivably ‘print’ an exact replica in a suitable material, which could then use in surgery to replace the original bone.  The uses for 3D printing are only as limited as our imaginations.”

The BuddyGripper is an after-market attachment used to enhance your smart-phone by propping it up in a useful and easily affordable fashion.  When McCoy was creating the BuddyGripper, it took only 3-4 hours for him to develop the actual product.  “A 3D printer allows you to print a prototype right there in front of you and see how it works immediately without the expense and time of sending a product someplace else to create a prototype,” explains McCoy.  “Using such a printer allows entrepreneurs and manufacturers to change the design, scale, and depth of a product easily and inexpensively.  Anyone familiar with using a CAD model or making 3D computer designs can have their ideas printed out right in front of them with the 3D printer.”

Similar to 2D computer printers, 3D printers are available for a variety of price ranges depending on quality and potential uses.  The very lowest cost printer can be found for about $150 US with the higher priced printers going for over $1,000 US and professional grade 3D printers costing well into the 10s and $100k US.  These lower-cost printers are usually sold as a kit that you then have to assemble yourself.

McCoy is confident 3D printing has just begun to change how companies do business.  No longer does someone have to guess what a product will look like when completed.  An engineer can create a 3D model on his computer, print it out and see how it will function immediately without ever leaving the confines of his office building.  For more information on how you might be able to utilize 3D printing in your work and creative endeavors, you can contact Christopher McCoy at chris@buddygripper.com.

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