The special issue (3D Printer Buyer’s Guide) in the Make: magazine reported that the first patent for 3D printing was obtained by Charles Hull in 1986. The essence of 3D printing is that software can “slice” a 3D image into a stack of 2D layers, and this forms the basis of a 3D printer that builds an object by printing one layer on top of another.
With a price range for a decent 3D printers starting at $1500 with capabilities that come close to commercial / industrials systems, 3D printing is ready for the masses. 3D printers are still expensive (good ones cost over $2000), but using one may be just around the corner. And I mean literally, we may be able to try out a 3D printer at Fedex/Kinko’s, a 3D Design salon, or even being available for rent near future. Most importantly, 3D printing can provide variety of solutions for people with disabilities.
For example, Global Accessibility News (Feb 3, 2014) reported that a 3D printer can help people who are blind or low vision feel the world around them.
A video shows constructing four puzzle blocks with letters F, I, S, H on them imprinted in braille. This way a person with vision disabilities can put all the letters together, read the word ‘fish’, and feel the shape of the fish that the blocks form. (Article)
The University of Warwick in UK is helping its students with physical disabilities become their own product designers so they can 3D-print customized objects that help them in their daily living. (Article)
In the future, 3D printing could be used to build homes. 3D printer can build a house in 20 hours: Click here