For my money, a sure mark of a technology reaching maturity (and market acceptance) is when the purely aesthetic customisation options start to appear…
Bonus future-points for the fact that these are being made using rapid prototyping / 3d printing technology. Mass production, pah!
[ Can’t actually remember whose Google Reader recommendations this piece came out of, so – whoever it was – please accept my apologies and an ambiguously-directed hat-tip. ]
Via Fabbaloo comes news that big businesses are starting to wake up to the savings they can make with 3D printing and rapid prototyping technology. Granted, this is a press release from a company that makes 3D printers, but the solid numbers that they’re quoting with respect to shoe giants Converse speak more loudly than the corporate back-patting:
Converse says its ZPrinters can produce a shoe model in two hours, or nearly 30 times faster than an ABS printer. ZPrinting has also helped:
- Eliminate eight annual trips to Asia for design consultations at a cost of up to $12,000 per person for each trip;
- Cut tooling costs from $350,000 in 2006 to $150,000 in 2008 by using ZPrinted models to winnow designs; and
- Transform the way the company does business by bringing 3D shoe models to key accounts and producing models on demand.
“We’re seeing new prototypes in hours and cutting weeks off our design cycle,” said Bryan Cioffi, manager of digital product creation at Converse of N. Andover, Mass, USA. “Last night’s sketches become tangible color models that we can pass around at this morning’s meeting. Our ZPrinter has become a prototyping center in its own right, and it’s helping us get better products to market more quickly for less money.”
That technology is itself becoming cheaper by the month, so we can expect many other manufacturers to clamber aboard the fabbing train as they attempt to rebuild after the economic slump.
But that same capability may actually spell the doom of corporate giants like Converse. After all, when every town has a 3D print-shop, why pay Converse for a new pair of trainers that they’ve designed when you can just clone their basic design files from a torrent, make some unique tweaks and print out a custom sneaker of your own for a comparable (or perhaps even lower) price?
Researchers at the University of Twente have developed a biodegradable resin that can be used to create precise replicas of forms within the body around which new tissues can be grown:
The resin can be given different properties depending on where in the body it is to be used. Cells can be sown and cultured on these models, so that the tissues grown are, in fact, produced by the body itself. The new resin has been developed by Ferry Melchels and Prof. Dirk Grijpma of the UT’s Polymer Chemistry and Biomaterials research group. An article on this breakthrough will be appearing in the authoritative specialist journal, Biomaterials
The method used to recreate the specific forms is called stereolithography, the improvement in this system is that the resins have hitherto not been biodegradable. This means:
If, for example, a child has a heart valve disorder, a 3D digital image of the heart valve can be created using a CT scanner. The model in the stereolithograph can be copied exactly with the new resin. If the structure is made porous, the child’s own cells can be placed on it. This porosity also gives nutrients access to the cells. Ultimately, after the carrier structure has broken down, only the natural tissue remains.
Which is a rather wonderful development.
A moment of history. The RepRap project has created circuits for the first time:
Ed and I have a final-year student – Rhys Jones – who’s working on RepRap for his MEng research project. He’s been taking the old idea of depositing metal in channels and an observation of Forrest’s and Nophead’s (that you don’t need a low-melting-point alloy because the specific heat of metals is so low that they shouldn’t melt the plastic anyway).
Also worth a look: Bruce Sterling points to Darwinian Marxism as a means of ensuring the proletariat gain possession of the means of production sans revolution.
[via the Yorkshire Ranter][image from the Reprap blog]