Fabbaloo, the blog devoted to all things fabbed (as in fabricated, 3d printed and desktop manufactured) offers this roundup of the field’s trends in 2008:
- The rise of sophisticated specialized printing services. Let’s face it; there have been 3D print services around for quite a while, but it’s only this year that a few breakthrough companies began applying advanced Web 2.0 approaches to the problem. Companies like Ponoko, Shapeways and others are breaking new ground and beginning to gather a large audience that will eventually become the personal manufacturers of the future.
- The increasing capabilities of large-scale 3D printers. Increased build chambers, more colors, new and unusual print media and multiple media printing were all introduced by the major equipment vendors, Z Corp, Stratasys, 3D Systems and Objet. More, please!
- We’re still waiting for the price breakthrough. The “Apple Laserwriter moment” has not yet arrived, but it’s surely coming. Equipment such as MCOR’s paper printer and Desktop Factory’s sub-USD$5,000 device should be generally available in their initial incarnation in the coming year. Meanwhile, we await an inexpensive device to really blow open the market.
- The creativity unleashed by personal manufacturing. One can only look at Ponoko’s library of designs to see what is beginning to happen; nothing less than Web 2.0 for manufacturing.
I have no doubt that 2009 will be a turning point for Rapid Prototyping and desktop manufacturing – it will be the year when everyone gets extremely excited about its possibilities, and realises that there’s really a Second Industrial Revolution in the making.