A cheaper alternative to some extremely expensive metal 3D printer might soon be available to the average consumer. The catch is someone will have to develop the blueprint even further.
A team of engineers from the University of Michigan is currently designing a sub $2,000 contraption that is capable of ‘printing’ out metal objects. The products aren’t anywhere near the level of sophistication and details as polymer-based 3D printers, but Joshua Pearce, a fellow researcher on the project, says that progression will accelerate once the 3D-printing community step up their involvement.
“Similar to the incredible churn in innovation witnessed with the open-sourcing of the first RepRap plastic 3D printers, I anticipate rapid progress when the maker community gets their hands on it,” said Pearce. “Within a month, somebody will make on that’s better than ours, I guarantee it.”
The blueprint, software and firmware are available to anyone technical and willing enough to jump on this project. Pearce, however, suggests that only the experienced and well-equipped DIY-ers take on this monumental task, as fire hazard and other safety concerns will become major obstacles.
Consumer-ready 3D printers have been making headlines as of late, and the products they’re printing out can range from miniature self-figurines to functional handguns. Some will argue that the negative impacts—guns and other weapons—of 3D printers must not be ignored, and strict regulations must be in place. Many early adopters and DIY-ers, however, believe that the technology’s benefits outweigh other socially unacceptable usage of 3D printers.
“I really don’t know if we are mature enough to handle it (3D printing technology), but I think that with open-source approach, we are within reach of a Star Trek-like, post scarcity society, in which ‘replicators’ can create a vast array of objects on demand, resulting in wealth for everyone at very little cost. Pretty soon, we’ll be able to make almost anything,” Pearce said optimistically.