Disruptive: make your own 3D printer

Klik hier voor de Nederlandse versie.

I personally think that it is just a matter of time before we are all using a 3D printer at home. You can start big and build a house with a 3D-printer. How revolutionary this idea might seem, you will not be the first. DUS Architects announced that they started to realize the first 3D-printed canal house in 2013. They use a machine called Kamermaker (Roombuilder), the world’s first movable pavilion that can 3D print entire rooms of plastics. The project takes place in Amsterdam, which celebrates that the year 2013 marks the 400th anniversary since construction began on Amsterdam’s world renowned Canal Ring.

Obviously, printing a house requires investments in expensive machinery. You can also start small and make your own digital machinery for just a couple of hundred euros at a FabLab. FabLabs are small-scale workshops offering (personal) digital fabrication. Fablabs are initiated by Neil Gershenfeld, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He realized that new technology makes it possible to produce almost anything at home. He started a course “How to make almost anything”. Eventually the course was the start of the initiation of FabLabs all around the world. In the Netherlands there are more than 15 FabLabs . There even is a FabLab Truck that visits schools, festivals and events.

Besides giving the public in general the possibility to work with digital machinery by sharing it, the FabLabs also have an explicit strategy towards sharing knowledge and design for free. In order to maximize this type of sharing, it is helpful that FabLabs use similar machinery and have manuals written in English. Most of the FabLabs are financially supported in order to make the initial investments in the standard machinery, preceded by a period of formal decision making.

The FabLab Amersfoort however was launched after only seven days and with an investment of no more than 5.000 euro. This happened after the founders discovered that a laser cutter of Chinese origin was for sale at a bargain price. The catch: the machine came with a Chinese manual. They overcame this problem and with the laser cutter the other machinery needed in the Fablab could be built. Subsequently with this machinery you can build your own small digital 3D laser cutter, the Mantis. For only 395 euros, Protospace, the FabLab in Utrecht, offers a course in order to support you in making the Mantis. It costs 1695 euros to follow a course in making your own 3D-printer. For most people a lot of money, but when you compare it to the costs of driving your own car it’s a relative small amount. Imagine a world where you can reproduce the coffee cup that you just broke or make your own spare parts for machinery at home? The future is already happening now.

This blog is partly based on a contribution to the e-book Nederland Opent