The personal fabrication revolution: Status Quo Ante
There is considerable talk about a revolution that awaits us in personal fabrication. A lot of the news reaches me, but mostly not the mainstream media, YET. Fabrication tools (Fabbers) such as the RepRap and Fab@Home are becoming increasingly accessible for the average user. This is in terms of price (starting at 500 euros), ease of obtaining 3D printer parts or kits, quality of documentation, quality of the 3D printers themselves. These factors are being further improved as we speak by a huge network of active volunteers and fabrication enthusiasts.
At the same time, there are more and more FabLabs!
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Also, there are many RepRappers close to you.
A nice quote about the FabLab Utrecht is:
“[..] FabLab is equipped with: a laser cutter, a vinyl cutter, a milling machine and a full colour 3D printer. The impressive bit of FabLab is not the fact that the type of machines it offers exist. The impressive part is that you can get these machines to do your bidding by feeding it things as simple as PDF files. You create your model or drawing and then basically hit the print button, select â€˜laser cutterâ€™ instead of your regular ink jet printer, and watch the machine get to work.”
At a FabLab, you can use PDFs for the RepRap laser cut parts and press print. After that, you need to put the pieces together just like you (used to) do with lego! It’s so easy, you almost forget that it’s an advanced machine and that the end result are machine parts for a machine that can produce objects out of any arbitrary shape! You can use “industrial grade High Impact Acrylic” or…. use simple plywood…
Also, the tools to generate 3D models are becoming better and newer, and much easier to use methods are developed. SketchUp is a good example of what you can use, but also games provide the option to create characters or avatars that can be exported for printing (e.g. Spore)!
“The dream behind Thingiverse is that someday in the not so distant future, when everyone has a RepRap machine, they will be able to go to Thingiverse.com, find a useful/interesting/cool thing, download it, print it, and 15 minutes later be able to hold the actual thing in their hands. This is the coming revolution of digital fabrication and we want to help you make it happen.”
Now there is a new repository for 3D models, but also 2D designs for laser cutters, drawings, electronics designs, etc. along with pictures (rendered and photo’s of end results), construction guides and much more.
Some time ago, people didn’t really see the need for computers. Now, because they are so useful because you can do almost anything with them, everyone has a personal computer. Now, personal fabricators are becoming more and more available, powerful, easy to use and fun. I’m talking about the near future: Especially 3D printers that can mostly copy themselves (for just about 20 euros worth of plastics) have the potential to be in many people’s homes.