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Will Fab@Home Succeed?

April 15, 2007

Filed under: additive manufacturing,education,entertainment,review — Terry Wohlers @ 16:31

Fab@Home has been receiving a lot of attention lately. What is it? Fab@Home is an open source 3D printer development at Cornell University. Hod Lipson, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, and Evan Malone, a PhD candidate in Lipson’s Computational Synthesis Lab, are working together on the project. The plans for the machine are available at fabathome.org for anyone to download. Also, a kit is available from Koba Industries, a machine shop in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for $2,975.

About a dozen people are building one and three are complete and running, according to a March 5, 2007 story published by The Engineer Online, a web-based publication in the UK that quoted Lipson. Two of the assembled machines are at the University of Washington and one is in Innsbruck, Austria.

To some degree, the academic project has already succeeded. Will it become commercially viable? It may, if on-going improvements are made to the system. Currently, the quality of the parts from the machine is questionable. At fabathome.org, you can see parts made from silicone rubber, chocolate, and cake icing. Part quality aside, I believe that engineers, students, and others would enjoy assembling and experimenting with the machine and custom tailoring the process for a specific application and/or material. If the momentum continues, the development could grow into something much bigger and of commercial interest.

Lipson and Malone refer to the 3D printer as a “fabber,” a term that was introduced about 15 years ago. It received a cool reception back then and few have since warmed up to it. With the attention that Fab@Home has been getting, the guys at Cornell could popularize the term. More importantly, they could popularize 3D printing among those who would never consider a more expensive system.

3 Comments

  1. Why do you think ‘fabber’ is getting some attention now and not 15 years ago? What has changed and what are the key pre-requisites for desktop manufacturing to become a commercial reality?

    Comment by Dogic — April 23, 2007 @ 04:28

  2. The term “fabber” is getting attention only because Fab@Home is getting attention. Regarding “desktop manufacturing,” I assume you mean manufacturing on the desktop. To some extent, it’s already a commercial reality. I know of companies that are doing short-run production using the Dimension 3D printer.

    Comment by Terry Wohlers — April 23, 2007 @ 19:44

  3. (Sorry, been head down for a while getting our service launched).

    Yes, as I am sure you know there are a few 3d printers out there now. But wonder when 20% and 50% of households will have them on the desktop ?? And what will drive this adoption?

    I feel adoption is affected by the availability of a ‘personal manufacturing platform’ to plug the hardware into – somewhere to upload / download / buy / sell ‘digital products’ that brings together creators, makers and buyers.

    Comment by Dogic — May 8, 2007 @ 06:17