Wednesday, November 3, 2010

From Your Computer to a "Printed" 3-D Object

Neil Gershenfeld (left) described the coming revolution of 3-D printing several years ago in his book "FAB". We have reported about Gershenfeld's work and book before but, with the production of the world's first 3-D printed car (see article below), we need to take another look at the amazing potential of this revolutionary technology.

Imagine the potential of a technology that allows you to design an object on your home computer using free software and being able to have it printed out as a real 3-D object. This does for product design what the traditional printer did for graphic design.

Neil Gershenfeld is a professor at MIT and the head of MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms, a sister lab spun out of the popular MIT Media Lab. His book, "Fab, The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop - From Personal Computers to Personal Fabrication" (right) explains the technology and relates some of the applications in surprising places like underdeveloped areas in India and Africa.

Gershenfeld also points out that not only can the fabricating process produce objects but it can produce the machines needed to produce the objects. He refers to a "personal fabricator," a machine that makes machines, called "fab labs." Gershenfeld and his colleagues have actually established these systems in India, Africa, Norway, and Boston to empower local people to use technology to create jewelry from junk, capture solar power, and make milk safe to drink.

Click on the heading above to see Gershenfeld's presentation at a TED conference.

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