One of the biggest and most important trends right now is the increasing ability for people to make physical stuff that used to be impossible to make themselves. 3D printing is, obviously, a big part of that, but a variety of other advancements are happening at the same time. We're in the very early days, but machines that help you make stuff are getting cheaper and cheaper, as they get more and more powerful. There are a ton of these kinds of things showing up on crowdfunding platforms, so let's take a look at a few:
3D Print on the cheap: The interestingly named Buccaneer 3D printer from the also interestingly named Pirate3D Inc. is one of the cheapest 3D printers around these days, running a bit less than $400. And I remember when people were excited that such printers finally got under $2,000! There are a few other 3D printers around a similar price out there, but it's nice to see that the Buccaneer is focused on both ease of use of the 3D printer, while also trying to make the device itself look nicer than many other 3D printers. Cheaper, easier, nicer looking? Those are things that help 3D printing go mainstream.
It's worth noting that there are some concerns about the claims made by the company, and at that price, the quality you're going to get is absolutely going to be limited. But, we're on the cusp of something amazing in 3D printers, and I imagine that it won't be long before we see more cheap 3D printers as the quality increases. But if you want to get in early... The Buccaneer shot past its targeted $100,000 very quickly and is looking like it will go a lot higher by the time it's all done.
3D print without 3D printed parts: Honestly, I just found this project more amusing for the fact that it's a 3D printer where the makers spend a lot of time mocking 3D printer output. It's the OpenBeam Kossel Pro, a 3D printer without any parts manufactured by a 3D printer. As the creators point out, 3D printing is great for rapid prototyping, but sometimes good old fashioned mass produced injected molded parts are the right tool for the job, and can make things cheaper on a mass scale. So they've made a 3D printer that is too elitist for its own parts.
As I wrote this, it was right about its goal, so by the time you read this, there's a decent chance it'll have surpassed the goal already.
Make by cutting down, not building up 3D printing is great for building stuff, but sometimes you have to work in the other direction. The folks at Otherlab in San Francisco have built the Othermill, a small, relatively inexpensive CNC mill device so that you can build stuff, such as electrical parts/circuit boards etc.
This project's about to close way over its target goal, so if you want one, get in fast.
Print on stuff: Okay, so the first items above are all about building stuff, but what do you do with that stuff once it's built? Well, you might want to label it, and that's where Tag On That has you covered. It's a printer that lets you label, well, pretty much anything. They claim that it takes the same technology that puts labels on things like phones, computers and keyboards, and puts that into the hands of the everyday consumer. I have to admit, the first time I saw the "print head" template "squash" into the item it was printing on it, it made me smile. I had no idea that's how you do that.
Watching the video, you suddenly realize just how much you might possibly be able to "tag." Of course, Portlandia fans already know exactly what to do with such a printer ("put a bird on it!"). Unfortunately, it looks like it's still a bit expensive for everyday use, especially since you'll need to pay a few hundred more if you want to be able to make your own templates for printing (cheaper models come with just one template). Still, the project is more than halfway funded with nearly a month left, which tends to bode well for making it over the goal.