3D printing and desktop
tell us what’s currently
on their radars.
BY GARETH BRANWYN
We asked leaders in the field of 3D printing and desktop
fabricating, and early adopters of
this technology, a simple question:
What are you most excited about
right now; what has your attention?
Here’s some of what they told us.
Ted Hall, CEO, ShopBot Tools, makers of CNC
routing equipment shopbottools.com
One exciting aspect is increasing social organization
being built around digital fabrication. This includes
the Fab Labs around the world — offshoots of Neil
Gershenfeld’s book Fab: The Coming Revolution
on Your Desktop — where additive and subtractive
digital fabrication tools are made available to all.
Also, sites like Ponoko that offer digital fabrication
services as well as designer galleries of digitally
More and more people “get it.” We may not have
Star Trek replicators yet, but we do have tools that
allow anyone to make almost anything with just a
little learning and effort. And, it can be shared and
Jeffrey McGrew and Jillian Northrup, Because
We Can, design-build studio becausewecan.org
Everything has gotten so much more accessible,
both the technology itself and the amount of help
online. We could now buy a plastic extruder kit from
MakerBot, mount it on our inexpensive ShopBot
machine, and have a 3D printer that could make
something 4 feet by 8 feet by 6 inches thick. That’s
insane! For next to nothing, we’d have a machine
that would’ve cost tens of thousands of dollars just
five years ago!
In terms of tools, we love Blender, a super-powerful, open source 3D modeling app. We used
it for the globe logo we did for Wikipedia.
Most commercial CAM software is either buggy
and looks like it was written in VB in the mid-90s,
or is staggeringly expensive. Or both. We don’t
see a great option yet on the open source horizon.
However, Vectric, a small company in England,
writes high-quality, easy-to-use, and affordable
CAM software that does 80% of what the expensive
packages do, at about 20% of the cost.
David ten Have, CEO, Ponoko, direct digital
fabrication marketplace ponoko.com
For me, the most exciting thing is the emergence
of a common vernacular (more people are starting to understand the processes required to handle
the creation, distribution, and consumption of 3D
design files). When we started, we spent lots of time
explaining this process to people.
The second thing is the appreciation of these
new technologies and systems by established
businesses. We’re learning how to talk to one another
Fig. A: Jeffrey McGrew shows off the puzzling
Wikipedia logo, modeled in Blender and cut on his
studio’s CNC machine named Frank.
productively and with the rest of the economy. We’re
able to help unleash the creative forces that we all
know we need unleashed, and reward designers/
creators/engineers with new opportunities.
100kGarages ( 100kgarages.com) is a fine
example of companies appreciating the tech that’s
starting to emerge. [Editor’s note: 100kGarages is
an organization, started by Ponoko and ShopBot
Tools, to bring together digital fabricators, makers,
and those looking to have things made.]