In the 90s, students across the country wrote papers envisioning what the year 2000 would be like. One of the most popular visions of the future included flying cars, 3D printers that would spit out whatever you wanted and a device that would allow you to communicate with your favorite pet.
Cars can t fly and you and your dog can t have a human-conversation, but the grown-up school children of the 90s are getting to see one of their future visions come true: a printer that can print whatever you want within reason, that is.
You can actually own your own 3D printer, but if you don t have thousands of dollars to spend on the best 3D printer, you can go online and use a 3D printing service, or just go to your local UPS, Staples or library (OK, so when we say local, we mean the select very, very select US and European locations).
For example, Asda, a grocery store in the UK, scans anything that you want, including yourself, and prints 3D models. You could get a 3D replica of your boyfriend or your favorite cat, and pick up a gallon of milk all in the same trip.
It s kind of amazing that you can go online, design and order what you just created in 3D. It s even more amazing that you walk into an average, everyday store, like Staples, UPS, a grocery store or even a library with a project in mind and get something printed in 3D! Would you have thought that would be possible even five years ago?
The FFL Fab Lab, or the Fayetteville Free Library s Fabulous Laboratory, in Fayetteville, New York, has several 3D printers that the public can use, but only after you go through a training appointment and become certified. It is free to use the equipment in the Fab Lab, but you will need to pay for the printer-plastic used during the 3D printing service.
If you are not located near one of the public-use 3D printers, there are online options, such as i.materialise.com. Here, you can use their 3D print lab to upload your 3D model file, play with color and scale and even choose what material to print it in, such as Polyamide, stainless steel, rubber, ceramic and even brass. You can print your creations and keep them for yourself, or sell them on i.materialise.com.
Other online 3D printing services and labs, include shapeways.com, sculpteo.com and even Staples MyEasy3D website.
Just a note, when considering which 3D printing service to use, online or in-store, choose the service that offers a variety of materials to print your objects in. For example, i.materialise offers 18 different materials, Shapeways offers 11 and Sculpteo seven. All materials are priced differently.
What was once a futuristic dream has become a reality. We are sure that 3D printing services and labs will soon be coming to a location near you. With the best 3D printers available to you at any time, we suggest you break out pencil and paper, your favorite design software or even research popular items that people print using 3D printers. Then, when the time comes, you can take advantage of this extraordinary technology.
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