In our previous article on 3D Architectural Printing we looked at the use of commercial 3D printing for the creation of physical city models thanks to those nice people at Sweet Onions Creations. We would argue that we are at the start of a revolution in home based manufacture using these machines, within the next 10 years design files will be shared as much as music files are today to print out new objects in the home.
Central to this is the Fab@Home project, 3D Printers or Fabbers as they are known are a relatively new form of manufacturing that builds 3D objects by carefully depositing materials drop by drop, layer by layer.
Slowly but surely, with the right set of materials and a geometric blueprint, you can fabricate complex objects that would normally take special resources, tools and skills if produced using conventional manufacturing techniques.
A fabber can allow you to explore new designs, email physical objects to other fabber owners, and most importantly – set your ideas free. Just as MP3s, iPods and the Internet have freed musical talent, we hope that blueprints and fabbers will democratize innovation.
While several commercial systems are available, their price range – tens of thousands, to hundreds of thousands of dollars – is typically well beyond what an average home user can afford. Furthermore, commercial systems do not usually allow or encourage experimentation with new materials and processes. But more importantly, most – if not all – commercial system are geared towards making passive parts out of a single material.
The goal of the Fab@Home project is to explore the potential of universal fabrication: Machines that can use multiple materials to fabricate complete, active systems.
New Scientist have uploaded onto YouTube a 5 minute long interview with Evan Malone a co-founder of the Fab@Home project. The clip is well worth a look at it provides examples of the home based 3D printer to date as well as an insight into the future when these become part of everyday life:
The AT&T Tech channel also have a short film on the Fabber.
The system is starting to get into the hands of other research labs and individuals, a Google MyMaps project has been set up to map the spread of the Fabber with the locations so far embedded below:
View Larger Map
If you want to make your own, costs are currently coming in at $2300 with full details and parts via the Fab@Home website.
Finally, keep an eye on the Fab@School Blog as they have just received parts and will be blogging their progress with the machine.