by TGM staff
MakerBot Industries, best known for its small 3D printers, has opened a shop in Manhattan through which it will aim to sell the joys of home fabrication to the general public, the BBC reported late in September.
The store opening comes as MakerBot releases the second incarnation of its Replicator 3D printer.
The Replicator 2.0 works to much finer resolutions than earlier versions and can fabricate much bigger objects.
MakerBot said the store, the first of its kind, would act as a showcase for 3D printing and stage demonstrations and workshops for those who were curious about the technology.
3D printing involves building up objects layer by layer out of plastic that is melted and fed via a carefully controlled nozzle to form a shape. The printers were initially used in engineering and design firms to produce and refine prototypes.
Now many home hackers, makers and artists use 3D printers to turn out their own customized creations.
Examples include model soldiers, cases for home electronic projects, and furniture for dolls’ houses.
Bre Pettis said the Replicator 2.0 was aimed at the “prosumer”—either a design professional or a hardcore hobbyist. The device costs $2,199 and builds objects up in layers only 100 microns thick. In previous versions, each layer was about 270 microns thick.
Mat Fordy, founder and boss of cool components.co.uk that sells 3D printers and other home hacking gear, said the technology was proving popular.
“We’ve really seen the affordable 3D printer market in the UK explode over the last couple of years,” he told the BBC. “Many types of people use them, not just professionals.” He said the new MakerBot was a great looking piece of kit but supply problems had made it hard to get hold of.
“They never seem to have enough to go around, and that puts a lot of people off,” he said. “Other excellent printers are in ready supply, and many people just give up waiting and get one of those instead.” However, there are problems.
Wiki Weapon.com reports that a US project to create a printable gun has been derailed after the company supplying that 3D printer withdrew it.
In a letter published on the Wiki Weapon website, Stratasys said that it did not allow its printers “to be used for illegal purposes.” Defense Distributed, the group behind the project, had planned to share 3D weapon blueprints online.
Defense Distributed raised $20,000 (£12,400) online to get the Wiki Weapon project started.
It planned to develop a fully printable 3D gun, initially with no moving parts.
“This project could very well change the way we think about gun control and consumption,” it said on its site.
“How do governments behave if they must one day operate on the assumption that any and every citizen has near instant access to a firearm through the internet?” But the project hit a snag when the firm supplying the 3D printer got wind of what they were planning.
In a letter to Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson, Stratasys said that it had taken the decision to withdraw the printer “based on your lack of a [firearms] licence and your public statements regarding your intentions in using our printer.” “It is the policy of Stratasys not to knowingly allow its printers to be used for illegal purposes. Therefore please be advised that your lease of the Stratasys uPrint SE is cancelled at this time.” The firm collected the machine several days later.
Government laws on the manufacture of guns will need quick revision to catch up with the age of 3D printing, thinks Marc Goodman, head of the Future Crimes Institute.
“This appears to be a grey area under US law and the laws of other countries.
The question is: how do you control technology that can do illegal things?” he said.
“In this case, this was being done very overtly and trying to prove a point.
I am far more concerned about the people who aren’t publicizing it.” Goodman predicts that 3D printing could be the next battleground in the fight against organized crime and terrorism. And it won’t just be weapons that will be printed online.
“It will be the next frontier in IP [Intellectual Property] theft when you are able to manufacture a Rolex watch, Gucci handbags, Nike sneakers,” he said.
MakerBot Industries is a Brooklyn, NY-based company founded in January 2009 by Bre Pettis, Adam Mayer, and Zach “Hoeken” Smith producing 3D printers. MakerBot builds on the early progress of the RepRap Project with the goal of bringing desktop 3D printing into the home at an affordable price.