3D printer a Kiwi reality

By Madeleine Farman

The 3D printing revolution is moving out of the future and into Kiwi homes as new models appear in shops and costs fall below $1000.

Comworth Technologies is one distributor offering a plug-n-play model called the Da Vinci, which will set the buyer back $899, with 600g plastic ink cartridges costing $45.

The printer connects to a computer via a USB cable and users can download software and import 3D modelling files to create plastic objects.

During a test run in the Herald newsroom this week the printer could be heard whirring away creating, as if by magic, a small toy elephant.

The model has been on sale for about a month and is stocked in stores including Office Max and Office Product Depot. It is designed for schools, small-scale manufacturers and home users.

Massey High School teacher Lee Dainty said 3D printing was a great way to teach students about the design process.

Dainty asked his students to design their own 3D files and create models that they could then critique and analyse.

Retailers such as Noel Leeming and Ricoh are also selling 3D printers, with costs ranging from $1999 to $4899. Noel Leeming said they had been available for about three months.


A 3D print of a toy elephant

Noel Leeming sales consultant Patricia Baident said the product had been slow to take off but was generating a lot of interest.

"We've only had them in store for about half a year but we have a lot of people interested in them and how they work," she said.

But New Zealand seems slightly behind on the 3D printing craze.

A Chinese firm, WinSun Decoration Design Engineering, has reportedly printed 10 3D houses in just 24 hours, with construction of the small dwellings costing the company under $6000 each.

China has already announced plans to start its first 3D housing project in Qingdao, a city of nearly nine million in Shandong Province, eastern China.

3D printing has also dramatically cut the cost of producing prosthetic limbs. Usually one would cost at least $7000 but Washington University biomedical engineering students made one on a 3D printer for about $230.

- NZ Herald

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