Revolution in Digital Manufacturing and 3-D Printing
By Jane Applegate
March 25, 2014
Need to make something fabulous for your business? Find a ‘fabber.’
Fabbers are ‘fabricators,’ skilled entrepreneurs who help small business owners and project creators bring their dreams to life. There are thousands of talented people out there with the software, tools and equipment ready to help you create and test market new products—from jewelry to housewares, electronic parts and even designer dresses—all in record time.
“There is a digital manufacturing revolution,” said Ted Hall, founder and CEO of ShopBot Tools, which makes computer-numerically controlled (CNC) routers for milling, drilling and cutting wood, metal, plastic and other materials. “Now, anyone can be a manufacturer.”
The field is exploding, according to the designers, architects and manufacturing engineers attending the 5th Design for Manufacturing Summit, sponsored by ShopBot® and SketchUp. About 150 people attended the event in DUMBO (Brooklyn).
Although the tools and technology are out there, it still takes talent and creativity to develop and design new products. Anne Filson, co-founder of AtFAB, a company that leverages digital tools and networked manufacturing. “Having the skill and time to be a maker is a real luxury today,” said Filson.
New equipment for custom manufacturing of all sorts of products on a small scale is flooding the market. So-called 3D printers have plummeted in price from several thousand dollars to under $2,000. For example, MakerBot©, a pioneer in the field, recently released its fifth generation of 3D printers starting at $1,375 for the compact model. These printers rely on a variety of filaments to create three dimensional models generated by user-friendly software programs.
The digital manufacturing world is divided into three sectors: 3D printing which adds materials to create objects, subtractive tools which cut away or shape pieces of wood, metal or plastic and robotic assembly, which relies on smart machines to put things together.
“Tools today are one-tenth the price of tools sold ten years ago,” said Ted Hall, adding that these tools and processes make it ‘incredibly efficient’ for small companies to create and launch new products cost-effectively.
The fact that your designer can live in one place and send files to computers across the country or across the world are creating a true industrial revolution, according to the experts speaking at the Summit.
“Companies like MakerBot are trying to democratize technology,” said Anthony Moschella, VP of Product at MakerBot Industries, which provides the tools for affordable desktop 3D printing. He said his Brooklyn-based company can easily produce 250 replications a day for clients.
Engineers and designers can also collaborate in the cloud by using cloud-based platform developed by Lagoa. Product specialist Jeremy Luchini, demonstrated how automobile designers can design new cars by working virtually on the company’s platform.
Even novices can learn to design products with easy-to-use software designed by SketchUp, according to John Bacus, a product management director at Trimble Navigation, SketchUp’s parent company.
To learn more about digital manufacturing, creating product prototypes and new products check out these sites: