“Plásticos Cortés” was the name of my grandfather’s plastics business. His factory produced molded and injected plastic containers, which were later used to hold anything from mayonnaise, to mustard to cooking spices. As a child, I used to “work” for him in the summer. My jobs varied from trimming the excess plastic from the molded pieces, to gluing together sealers for bottle caps.
I loved to walk around the factory floor, amazed at those big machines, and all the electric, water and gas infrastructure needed to keep them running. I used to go with my grandpa to meetings with his suppliers—from the people that sold him the plastic pellets, to those that fabricated the molds for the new production pieces. This particular process, fabricating a metal mold for a new plastic bottle, was cumbersome; it involved a lot of back and forth and tons of tweaking.
Last Friday I walked into the Makerbot Retail Store in New York City. I was amazed by what I saw. I’ve read several articles about 3D printing in the last couple of years. But this is one of those things that you have to see to truly understand it.
What Makerbot has on displays and sells on its Lower Manhattan store is, for me, a game changer. The Replicator 2 desktop 3D printer, a 25-pound 19”x16”x17” box that fits in any desktop, geared towards the professional designer or prosumer. The machine can produce amazingly detailed objects in a matter of minutes, if not seconds. We saw helicopter and car toys, Christmas tree ornaments, watch bands and a number of examples of the type of objects that can be created by this machine that retails at $2,199 at the store, which is a statement in itself.
I was blown away by the possibilities. Today you need to have the skills to use a 3D design software, to produce the pieces. But it’s just a matter of time for this limitation to go away. What I think is possible is that in the near future, people will have a 3D printer at home, just like they have a color printer today. Imagine your vacuum cleaner breaks due to a broken part; you can go to the manufacturer’s website, download the file and print the spare part at home.
You lost a Monopoly token, the dog or your top hat – you can just print a new one in your home office. A celebrity comes with a new line of Christmas tree ornaments; you can go to an iTunes-like store, and download the files to print the entire collection at home. Need a plastic spoon? Just print it! Disintermediation at its best.
TweeksBI= “This week’s Big Inspiration.” Concepts, ideas, trends and things that I find thought-provoking.