Despite the excitement surrounding the potential of 3D printing, commercial manufacturing is driving use of the technology today for design and rapid prototyping of products or parts.
The technology is not cheap. A sophisticated, high-end system for manufacturing costs upwards of $100,000. Like all technologies, prices are coming down. Gartner Inc., a technology research firm in Stamford, Conn., predicts what it calls enterprise-class printers to drop as low $2,000 by 2016, putting them well within reach of most businesses and even consumers. Then, says Gartner, the technology will take off and expand into new applications and markets.
In northern Nevada, only a handful of manufacturers use 3D printers now. The Desert Research Institute purchased one for use in its virtual reality facility and provides 3D printing services for businesses. The DeLaMare Library at University of Nevada, Reno, has two for student and faculty use. There’s even a maker and seller of low-end 3D printers and 3D printer kits for consumers, Reno’s 3D Botic.
“It shortens the design process to a matter of days from six weeks to three months,” says Roy Klino, owner, Solid Solutions Design & Machine LLC, a Sparks-based machine shop. “You can get to product that much quicker.”
Klino purchased a ProJet 3000 HD 3D printer for $105,000 from 3D Systems Inc., Rock Hill, S.C., in late 2011. The printer uses an acrylic plastic and can print objects sized 11.75 inches by 7.3 inches by 8 inches.
“About the size of a sheet of paper,” says Klino. “The printer works flawlessly. We haven’t kept it as busy as we wished. I’d like to keep it busy 24×7. We took a bit of jump into the unknown to help create a manufacturing base for northern Nevada, to help lure and support manufacturers and high tech.”
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