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

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. afaust says:

    “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.”

  2. trebuchet03 says:

    Digital Revolution over?? That makes me a little sad – I was hoping for more digital-biological advancement :P

  3. morcheeba says:

    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.

  4. NickCarter says:

    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!

  5. trebuchet03 says:

    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).

  6. morcheeba says:

    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

  7. brlittle says:

    Best authorial illustration of this kind of thing, I think, is Neal Stephenson in The Diamond Age.

  8. hammerthumb says:

    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.”

  9. -soapy- says:

    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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