Press-Republican

FYI...

January 11, 2013

3-D printers could make your desk a factory

LAS VEGAS — When Ford wants to try out a new transmission part, an engineer sends a digital blueprint of the component to a computer, and what happens next once seemed like the stuff of science fiction.

Inside a device about the size of a microwave oven, a plastic, three-dimensional version of the component begins to take shape before your eyes. After scanning the design blueprint, the gadget fuses together a paper-thin layer of plastic powder. It repeats, putting another layer on top, and then thousands more, before binding the material together with lasers. A few hours later, out pops the auto part, ready to be tested.

The cost of such technology: about $1,500.

At such prices, 3-D printers, once an obscure and expensive innovation, are gaining traction among businesses, with broad implications for manufacturing. Ford is putting them in the hands of every one of its engineers. NASA uses the printers to test parts that could eventually make it to space.

And pretty soon, analysts say, they will be showing up in the home office. Just a few years ago, 3-D printers were as big as industrial refrigerators and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars each. Now anyone can order one online and put it on a desk.

That such technology can be offered so cheaply and compactly may be these gadgets' true breakthrough.

"You can argue this is the democratization of manufacturing," said Carl Howe, head of consumer research at Yankee Group, a tech research firm. He predicted that this will be the year when 3-D printers will become inexpensive enough to gain wider interest from small businesses, colleges and consumers.

"Things that used to require tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for plastic molds, you can now do for $1,500 or less," Howe said.

This is definitely the year that 3-D printing is making a splash at the International Consumer Electronics Show, the annual bazaar of geek commerce. Last year, only one 3-D printing company showed up at the CES, which aims to showcase gadgets you might buy at Best Buy or Amazon, not at industrial supply stores. This week, four such companies will be there.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
FYI...
  • 20140729-AMX-GIVHAN292.jpg Spanx stretches into new territory with jeans, but promised magic is elusive

    The Spanx empire of stomach-flattening, thigh-slimming, jiggle-reducing foundation garments has expanded to include what the brand promises is the mother of all body-shaping miracles: Spanx jeans.

    August 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • lockport-police.jpg Police department turns to Facebook for guidance on use of 'negro'

    What seems to be a data entry mistake by a small town police department in western New York has turned into a social media firestorm centered around the word "negro" and whether it's acceptable to use in modern society.

    August 9, 2014 3 Photos

  • Sunburn isn't the only sign of summer that can leave you itchy and blistered

    You've got a rash. You quickly rule out the usual suspects: You haven't been gardening or hiking or even picnicking, so it's probably not a plant irritant such as poison ivy or wild parsnip; likewise, it's probably not chiggers or ticks carrying Lyme disease; and you haven't been swimming in a pond, which can harbor the parasite that causes swimmer's itch.

    August 8, 2014

  • CATS-DOGS281.jpg Where cats are more popular than dogs in the U.S.-and all over the world

    We all know there are only two types of people in the world: cat people and dog people. But data from market research firm Euromonitor suggest that these differences extend beyond individual preferences and to the realm of geopolitics: it turns out there are cat countries and dog countries, too.

    August 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Why a see-through mouse is a big deal for scientists

    A group of Caltech researchers announced in Cell Thursday their success in making an entire organism transparent. Unfortunately, this isn't any kind of "Invisible Man" scenario: The organism in question is a mouse, and the mouse in question is quite dead.

    August 6, 2014

  • cleaning supplies Don't judge mothers with messy homes

    I was building shelves in my garage when a neighbor girl, one of my 4-year-old daughter's friends, approached me and said, "I just saw in your house. It's pretty dirty. Norah's mommy needs to clean more."

    August 5, 2014 1 Photo

  • wd saturday tobias .jpg Stranger’s generosity stuns Ohio veteran

    Vietnam War veteran David A. Tobias was overwhelmed recently when a fellow customer at an OfficeMax store near Ashtabula, Ohio paid for a computer he was purchasing.

    August 4, 2014 1 Photo

  • Russia's war on McDonald's takes aim at the Filet-o-Fish

    Russia said earlier this week that it had no intention of answering Western sanctions by making it harder for Western companies to conduct business in Russia.
    But all bets are off, apparently, when you threaten the Russian waistline.

    August 3, 2014

  • Fast food comes to standstill in China

    The shortage of meat is the result of China's latest food scandal, in which a Shanghai supplier allegedly tackled the problem of expired meat by putting it in new packaging and shipping it to fast-food restaurants around the country.

    August 2, 2014

  • Has the ipad lost its swag?

    The numbers are clear: Apple is selling fewer iPads.

    August 1, 2014