You’re probably thinking the same thing I am. Soon 3D printing will be just as sure a part of the design process as having to pluck ticks from your eyelids after a nosedive into a damp, brushy floor of a wooded hillside.
Barring analogies to lyme disease and the whole blood-sucking thing, it pretty obvious 3D printing is getting more common and the ‘pay-per-part’ market is starting to get a bit more of a following. What I wonder is where is 3D color printing in all of this?
Oh, and even more… I’m wondering what you think.
Print me up some 3D
Currently there’s a handful of Print Services ready to take your .stl’s and turn them into fabricated sculptures of additive material brilliance. You have Shapeways running the same/similar business model as Ponoko (laser-cutting). Another service called Moddler.com has recently come on the scene taking aim at ‘digital entertainment creators’.
CAD users will most likely be familiar with Quickparts or Print3D. Both have plugins (add-ins) for many 3D CAD programs and formats. However, Quickparts is the one offering to print your part in color using Zcorp color printers.
Sidenote: The Quickparts ZCorp splash page was odd though. No mention of color. No images of color prints. Zcorp seems to be synonomous with ‘3D color printing’ – no doubt since they are the only one’s really doing it.
ZCorp’s pretty much has it
Material and processes aside, the ZCorp prints are impressive. Just take a gander at the Develop3D ZCorp 650 experience. ZCorp’s booth at SolidWorks World obviously stood out from the other printers that surrounded them. Two new full-color scanning handheld scanners, one of which brings in the speed and accuracy of photogrammetric technology.
What’s it gonna take?
ZCorp is doing some cool stuff for sure. But what’s it going to take to get 3D color printing really moving along beside a good head-butting session or the caffeinated intensity of a ZCorp marketing team meetings? You could point at ‘cost’ or ‘mainstream acceptance’, but I think it something simpler. When do you think it will become an everyday use? Is it already one for you?
I believe every engineer, designer or hobbyist’s eventual use of a 3D color printer lies within the bounds of what has moved other advanced business technologies into common use. It also happens to be very similar to going headlong down a grassy hillside. Are you ready? What could it be? All I know is… It’s coming.