Personal fabricators – make anything by hitting “print” on your PC…

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Our pal (and Maker profiled in MAKE 01) Neil Gershenfeld is in Fortune magazine/CNN – “According to MIT’s Neil Gershenfeld, the digital revolution is over, and the good guys won. The next big change will be about manufacturing. Anyone with a PC will be able to build anything just by hitting ‘print.’

Imagine a machine with the ability to manufacture anything. Now imagine that machine in your living room. What would you build first? Would you start a business? Would you ever buy anything retail again? According to MIT physicist Neil Gershenfeld, it’s not too early to think about these questions, because that machine, which he calls a personal fabricator, is not so far off – or so far-fetched – as you might think.”Link.


  • Fab lab articles, how-tos and projects @ MAKE – Link.

From the pages of MAKE:

18 thoughts on “Personal fabricators – make anything by hitting “print” on your PC…

  1. I bought the mini mill in the Make article (the Roland MDX-20, thank you ebay!), and it’s amazing. It takes some effort to secure & align the raw material in the machine, but once it gets going it turns out some very nice work.

    (shameless plug) My current project is a pong watch & this weekend I milled out a prototype case for it:

    Doing that with hand tools would be impossible, and even the industrial-grade non-automated mill I have access to would require a lot of very careful turning of knobs.

  2. When RP machines are available for under $1000 (and yes, anyone can build a rep-rap, but it has yet to progress beyond the experimental phase) then I’ll start buying into all this hype. CNC mills are great (heck, I sell them, and I have 2, just used one today…) but they do require a bit of user input beyond “here’s the 3D model, now make the part.”

    Morcheeba, great watch case!

  3. morcheeba, if you don’t mind me asking…. how much did you get your mdx-20 for? Sticker price at the moment seems to be mid 4K (helluva sticker shock :P).

  4. trebuchet03 – I found it new for $3500: Used, I paid $2700. I estimate a machine shop could turn out my watch case for about $150, so still not cost effective… but lots of fun!

    Nick – Thanks! The Roland has some nice software that figures out the tool paths, so it’s pretty simple to operate… but also very limited. Still nowhere as easy as a photocopier, which is what it’s got to be.

    Electronics has kindof turned this corner – you can buy a microcontroller kit for

  5. I just bought Neil Gershenfeld’s book “FAB” (at the used bookstore of course) this evening. After thumbing through the book I recommend it to all for some very good ideas on how to go about building “stuff.”

  6. If you want to make a cheap resin RP machine, you can. It’s not much harder than a 2 axis plotter with a UV laser attached. Simply scan and pulse one layer, then drop it a little, then pulse the next layer, and after many hours your part is ready.

    If you had a laser cutter/milling machine/plasma cutting table/plotter already, I bet you could do the conversion for the cost of a weekend and a UV laser system (which you can homebuild – see the AmSci Nitrogen laser)

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