The Mode of Invention: how 3D printers are game changers

The process of invention is changing. With the new line of 3-D printers coming to market, eureka-moments are just a click away from reality. In the past, bringing form to an idea was expensive and time consuming. Casting, mold making, and sculpting took time. And for those not skilled at these processes, it also took money. Now, it just takes a click of a mouse and a relatively small investment, $2500.



Makerbot’s Replicator 2 is one getting a lot of attention these days. That’s because it is portable, cheap and easy to use. Makerbot, a Brooklyn based company founded by Bre Pettis, Adam Mayer, and Zach Smith, has revolutionized 3-D fabrication in its four short years of existence. What it has done is to take the costly and complex behemoths that were 3-D printers, and replaced them with a desktop model ran off easy-to-use software. The Replicator 2 can build an exact replica of a building 11″W x 5″H x 5″D in about a day. Makerbot even provides free design downloads for those times when one just wants to print and not invent.

The real impact of these machines is yet to be seen. But they are sure to speed up the process. Now, one can print a quick idea or manufacture a fair amount of product with little financial risk. Also, prototyping is where the big lessons in creativity are learned. It is one thing to think of something. It is another to actually hold it in your hand. Rarely do final products look like the initial idea. That’s because there are thousands of modifications that need to be made before the product is perfected. James Dyson fabricated over 5,000 models of his vacuum before arriving at the one he wanted. Imagine how long that took. A 3-D printer can do it while you do something else, or sleep.

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