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The Latest in 3-D Printing

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MakerBot has been revolutionizing 3-D printing by making it available to small businesses and individuals.

3-D printing is the best way to streamline design and prototyping of new products and until recently, it has been simply too expensive for all but large corporations to use for R&D purposes.

The newest addition to the MakerBot lineup is known as the Digitizer. It is a desktop 3-D scanner that can be purchased directly from MakerBot’s website for $1,400.

Before we get into the specifics of this new product, let’s do a quick review of 3-D printing and why we feel it is important from a resiliency standpoint.

A Quick Overview of 3-D Printing Technology

Although we have covered 3-D printing technology in some of our monthly calls, it is important to realize just how large of an impact this budding technology will have as we strive to build resilient communities around local manufacturing operations.

In a typical business model, R&D costs quickly add up. In fact, many smaller operations have difficulty meeting the costs of producing a viable prototype (let alone mass production of the finished product).

Large corporations with deep pockets can afford expensive design and prototyping costs. The result is an uneven playing field where small local businesses struggle to make a name for themselves and their products.

Companies such as MakerBot are designing 3-D printers that are affordable on most budgets.

This means that small startups can design products using 3-D software and print them as actual three-dimensional objects with machines that cost around $2,000.

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When you combine this with the JOBS Act that goes into effect at the end of the month, we should start to see a movement away from large outsourced manufacturing operations. Local businesses will be able to compete fairly by promoting fundraising efforts locally and having the ability to produce professional prototypes inexpensively.

A 3-D printer, such as the MakerBot Replicator 2, uses plastic filament to print 3-D prototypes quickly and efficiently.

As a general rule, it is much easier to capture investor interest with a prototype that can be held and admired.

Rather than outsource a prototype production run to China (costs can be astronomical), businesses can create these objects using equipment that fits on a desk.

Although 3-D printing technology isn’t exactly new, MakerBot and some of its competitors differentiate themselves by offering products at a significantly lower cost. 3-D printing no longer requires huge investments to produce functional prototypes at home or in a small business setting.

MakerBot currently offers two desktop 3-D printers known as the Replicator 2 and the Replicator 2X. Either of these machines can be purchased for less than $3000 and work with most current 3-D creation software.

MakerBot has now taken this a step further by offering the Digitizer, a desktop 3-D scanner that converts existing objects into 3-D images for printing or sharing via platforms like Thingiverse.

Details about the Digitizer

Just as there are other 3-D printers available sometimes costing in excess of $100,000, there are also 3-D scanners available with prices that will easily scare away many businesses looking to implement 3-D prototyping into their current business model.

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The Digitizer from MakerBot is unique because of its affordability and easy integration with the Replicator 2 3-D printer. Currently for sale on the MakerBot website for $1,400, the Digitizer offers the following features:

  • Turns physical objects into 3-D digital design files in approximately 12 minutes
  • Outputs standard 3-D file format (STL) that is easily modified by programs like MeshMixer
  • Easily upload scans to Thingiverse
  • Eliminates the need for 3-D modeling design skills or CAD experience
  • Simple and powerful interface that will have anybody creating 3-D models in no time.

Regardless of what you use the Digitizer for; it meets the needs of most businesses with ease. MakerBot does caution that the level of detail may not be on par with engineers who need very specific, detail oriented 3-D models, but it will exceed the needs of the rest of us.

This video, from the CEO of MakerBot, gives a further explanation of exactly how the new Digitizer works.

More information about MakerBot, the Digitizer, and its other products can be found at www.MakerBot.com.

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