Personal Fabrication

Personal sized fabrication devices have the ability to replace conventional manufacturing processes and distribute it into the home environment. A large group of these devices is known as 3-D printers, because they operate somewhat like printers, but by adding layer upon layer, can create three dimensional output products. As this technology advances, the range of capabilities of personal fabricators will increase.

A near-time future might find a personal fabricator in every house (like a microwave oven or personal computer today), with the household purchasing ink-like cartridges that dispense compounds and elements for layering and downloading schematic plans for products to be printed. Cottage industries that produce the design plans and specialized printing cartridges might flourish. Conventional manufacturing and distribution channels may atrophy. Local shops that own larger fabrication machines and have other specialized finishing tools could produce custom made products on a larger scale.

How Personal Fabrication Might Change the World – []

Various personal fabrication machines are currently available. First and foremost are 3D printers, which can guide the building of a computer designed object using different types of extruded plastics, even bio-degradable ones. These are broadly referred to as fabricators or “fabbers”. Secondly, there are laser cutters that can cut or engrave a wide variety of different materials. Third, appliances are being produced that build up objects from layers of laminated paper or even melted metal powder. Eventually coming into play will be the already widely-used CNC (Computed Numerically Controlled) machines that can process particularly hard materials. Today, fabrication machines are commonly used to print objects ranging from industrial models, prototypes or prostheses to more mundane items like coat hooks and custom-fit replacement stove knobs. Already under development is the capacity for printing of electrical circuitry. In the near future, the cement-jet printing of entire buildings could become a possibility.

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