Tag Archives: Michigan Tech

Walt Disney sees a 3D printer in every family home

Earlier this week, Walt Disney International chairman Andy Bird predicted that there would be a 3D printer in every family’s home within the next decade.

Bird, who was speaking on the first day of the Abu Dhabi Media Summit, said 3D printing technology remains on track to “revolutionize” the way the world works.

“Every home in ten years, probably less than that, will have its own 3D printer just as homes now have a 2D or laser printer,” he opined.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Bird confirmed that Disney is currently examining various methods of utilizing 3D technology in its theme parks around the world.

“We’ll be working with the technology where you can easily capture the facial features of individual guests in a very fast way, so you can then turn those features and put them onto dolls,” he added.

“We’ve been doing that with Stars Wars whereby you can buy a Luke Skywalker doll that you can put your face onto.”

Joshua Pearce, an associate professor at Michigan Tech, expressed similar sentiments in a recent article covered on Bits & Pieces.

“For the average American consumer, 3D printing is ready for showtime,” Pearce explained. “3D printers [may] have been the purview of a relative few aficionados, but that is changing fast. The reason is financial: the typical family can already save a great deal of money by making things with a 3D printer instead of buying them off the shelf.”

As Pearce notes, open-source 3D printers for home use typically have price tags ranging from about $350 to $2,000.

“[Plus], you don’t need to be an engineer or a professional technician to set up a 3D printer,” said Pearce. “Some can be set up in under half an hour, and even the RepRap can be built in a weekend by a reasonably handy do-it-yourselfer.”

Pearce also emphasized that 3D printing likely heralds a new world in which consumers have many more choices – where nearly everything can be customized.

“With the exponential growth of free designs and expansion of 3D printing, we are creating enormous potential wealth for everyone,” he noted. “It would be a different kind of capitalism, where you don’t need a lot of money to create wealth for yourself or even start a business.”

How 3D printing empowers Makers

Chelsea Schelly, assistant professor of social sciences at Michigan Tech, says 3D printing can be used to help empower individuals.

“When you produce something yourself instead of purchasing it, that changes your relationship to it,” Schelly explained. “You are empowered by it.”

As Dennis Walikainen of Michigan Tech News notes, the principle might sound simple at first, although its ramifications are wide ranging, especially for middle and high school educators. In fact, that’s where Schelly’s 3D printing research began – at a teacher workshop coordinated by 3D printing guru Joshua Pearce.

During the workshop, one local high school teacher designed and printed a snowblower part that typically retails for $200.

“Instead, he made it himself and saved the money. And he saved the hassle of bringing the machine to the shop to get it fixed,” said Schelly. “The early feedback from the teachers is that the students are more engaged. They take pride in making these things for themselves. This could be seen as part of the larger ‘Maker’s Movement,’ where people are doing their own production processes.”

Joshua Pearce concurred, noting that more individuals are likely to begin designing and creating their own products as 3D printer prices drop significantly.

“As 3D printing [is] open-sourced, the costs plummeted from tens of thousands of dollars to $1,600 for assembled printers today, and the new RepRap printers are down to $500 in parts. As the price drop continues, they will become household items, like desktop printers. This has the potential to disrupt the way we manufacture,” he explained.

“The number of designs is exploding. There are a lot of helpers out there. Give us what you’ve got, and we’ll build on it and give you what we’ve got—and we all benefit. [For example], an open-source Chinese smartphone, made with a 3D printer, was [recently] posted online for $130, and 100,000 sold in 90 seconds.”

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, the DIY Maker Movement has been using Atmel-powered 3D printers like MakerBot and RepRap for some time now. However, 3D printing has clearly entered a new and important stage in a number of spaces including the medical sphere, architectural arena, science lab and even on the battlefield.

Indeed, the meteoric rise of 3D printing has paved the way for a new generation of Internet entrepreneurs, Makers and do-it-yourself (DIY) manufacturers. So it comes as little surprise that the lucrative 3D printing industry is on track to be worth a staggering $3 billion by 2016.