It’s time to throw out the Meccano – 3D printers are the new toys for amateur inventors, designers and artists now they’ve hit high street shops.
The technology has been available commercially for a while but this month marked the start of 3D printers being sold to consumers – and electronics chain Maplin introduced a model this month for just £700.
Tech geeks will be ecstatic at the news – there’s now a glut of websites like Thingiverse.com that lets you upload and share designs for virtually anything you want to print – at a quick glance on there there’s all manner of things, including a plastic trumpet and a camera mount.
And that’s the terrific thing about the technology; everyone can be creators. Innovation is at a premium and the only costs are the materials you print on.
3D printing works by extruding thin layers of (generally) plastic, building up a 3D image built to your design specifications, or printing various parts you can put together.
There are websites you can visit to buy pre-made designed objects or get your own designs printed in any material – Shapeways lets you print in gold-plated brass and sterling silver, for instance – but being able to print at home opens up the economy to new possibilities.
Companies can provide downloadable jewellery, clothing and toy designs on their websites to be printed from home, while households can even use printers to fix everyday problems, like replacing a broken door handle or printing a new set of cups.
As the devices become more common costs will drop and many predict it will become the norm.
People can buy things online to print at home, but a whole new generation of aspiring engineers, architects and creators can get imaginative from the comfort of their living rooms.