We've been a strong believer in the future of 3D printing for over 20 years. That may seem like an odd statement to make since the technology has only recently started to catch on and capture public attention. But back in the late 1980's, while working for the Unigraphics CAD/CAM subsidiary of McDonnell Douglas, we had the opportunity to use some of the early 3D printers using UV curable resins.
The ground breaking devices were pretty amazing at the time. No one, including ourselves, had imagined that it was possible to quickly design a prototype then send it to a 3D printer and have it produce a model you could actually feel in your hands.
While the technology was almost breath-taking, the prices were also. The early machines we worked with cost more than the car we drove. It's taken a couple of decades for the prices to fall to the point that the technology is within the reach of small companies, groups, and even some individuals.
Now it's attracted so much attention that articles touting the merits and potential of low cost 3D printers are popping up in unexpected places, like CNNMoney:
"Imagine being able to print your own shoes or keys. Some top engineers are betting that home fabrication machines could soon be as common in the household as toaster ovens."
It's clear that someone sees an opportunity to make a profit. The big question, at least in our opinion, is whether or not there are enough individuals out there that want, or need, to express their creativity and will need a low cost 3D printer to realize their ambitions. We hope so, but aren't convinced, at least not yet.