3D Printing – Not for the Masses?

Somerville, MA-based Formlabs, a relatively new company on the scene of 3D printing, stands poised and ready to revolutionize the market. The driving force behind the company’s advancement, Colin Raney, has some ideas about how the technology will change industry in the future, and not all of them are mainstream.

The major advancement made by Formlabs is the creation of a relatively inexpensive and small 3D printer that costs only $3,300 and is of desktop size. This is a sharp departure from the refrigerator-sized earlier models that cost $10,000 or more. Raney said that this will make the advantages of 3D printing far more accessible. He tempered that, however, with a judgment that 3D printing is likely to remain primarily in the professional field. Raney’s reasoning behind this was simple. While 3D printing technology is getting less expensive, it is not yet cheap enough to justify common household use. It would be far more expensive to buy a 3D printer and the resin materials needed to create basic household items than it would be to simply buy those items. Raney suggested that household 3D printing is still a long ways off despite his recent advancements. This view is in contrast to other’s views on the topic and also to much of the hype surrounding 3D printing.

On the other hand, the advantages to the professionals of the more portable and less-expensive 3D printers are great. Raney believes his work will allow professional designers and engineers the ability to work better and faster. It will also be of benefit to smaller design businesses that previously had great ideas and potential but were unwilling to deal with the bulkier and far more expensive earlier models.

3D printing technology allows the creation of structures that would be impossible using any other currently available technology. Raney promises that his technology will allow designers to create incredibly intricate parts without much need for post-processing work. A key advantage to Formlab’s design is the incredible level of detail the device can render, the creation of a 50-foot chain inside a five-inch box being just one example.

While Raney clearly believes his company’s product will bring 3D printing technology to a wider user-base, he also believes the broad-scale commercial potential of such creations will be what revolutionizes the industry and its underlying technology.

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