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3D Printing for All?

Mark Marich

In the mid-1980s, a series of technological advances gave birth to desktop publishing (do you remember Aldus Pagemaker?) and made it possible for individuals and small organizations to self-publish—at a fraction of the cost it would have through commercial printing. Fast forward about 25 years and we could be looking at the same thing happening to 3D printing. An 83-year old inventor has created an extruder that converts plastic resin pellets into filament for use in low-cost 3D printers—and he is practically giving it away.

Hugh Lyman took the top honors of the Desktop Fabrication Competition for his Lyman Filament Extruder II. The machine is open-sourced and replicable for less than $250.

As 3D printing becomes more common in schools, libraries, businesses and homes, such cost reductions could mean broader access to these technologies.

"Since Mr. Lyman's design is open source, he has advanced the state of the art from his garage," said Zach Kaplan, CEO of Inventables. "We expect future designs from established players and startups to build on his work and make the cost of desktop fabrication 10 times cheaper than it is today."

Kaplan explains the extraordinary evolution in digital manufacturing, driven in part by a drop in the cost of entry, in this Kauffman Foundation video.

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