New developments in 3D printing

We’re about to witness the third industrial revolution. At least, that was the talk around town at South by Southwest Interactive, the gargantuan annual gathering of digital creatives in Austin, Texas. This year’s opening keynote saw MakerBot’s Bre Pettis announce that his firm is on the verge of launching the MakerBot Digitizer, which measures physical objects and 3D-prints a perfect replica.

In an exclusive briefing with Computer Arts, Matthew Fiedler – a founder of 3D printer manufacturer re:3D – was effusive about the possibilities of 3D printing. “We can now make things that were previously thought to be impossible,” Fiedler told us. He presented a vision of the world where every community would have a 3D scanner and printer, and broken products could be quickly mended by printing replacement parts.

Part of this movement, Fiedler’s start-up launched Gigabot, a $2,500 Kickstarter-funded, open-source-powered 3D printer. Watching Fiedler’s device at work, it’s easy to understand the possibilities presented for creatives by 3D printing. Fiedler’s machine is essentially a computer-controlled glue gun that creates a product in very thin slices. Other more sophisticated 3D printers work by repeatedly laying down layers of powder and drawing a shape with a laser. Whatever the material level process, the result is the same: we can now make 3D objects in a way that existing crafting and manufacturing simply can’t.

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