Sometimes called simply 3D, the Third Industrial Revolution or Maker Technology, Desktop Fabrication is already changing the world. From design tools to 3D printing and CNC machines, these innovative tools are already making things getting easier and more sophisticated And, as usual, its accelerating.
Desktop Fabrication combines Computer Aided Design (CAD) software, robotics and other technologies to provide a basis for extreme advancements in manufacturing and customization. Not to mention the possibilities of empowering the individual with cheap and exceedingly great tools for making things.
Here are a couple of videos on the future and the basics of 3d Printing.
3D Printers use something like an inkjet printer with the added dimension of layers. It simply prints a layer with a material, rather than ink, then shifts and prints the next layer, hence 3D. While the materials started with plastics and such, metals and other materials are now being printed into 3D objects. Some already assembled and with capabilities far beyond previous technologies.
A Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine uses Computer Aided Design (CAD) software to convert design into Coordinates. Once the design is exported to the CNC machine, it cuts the object away a material like a sculptor would, but much faster and more precise.
Here is an example video of what can already be done with a CNC machine:
CNC machines have been around for a long time at the industrial scale. Like other sectors, they are advancing very fast and becoming more economical at the same time. The combination of CNC and 3D printing provides the foundation for extreme advances all over the globe and beyond.
One of the most interesting aspects of Desktop Fabrication is that it scales very naturally. Think of the potential of a small 3D printer and/or C & C machine can make parts for a bigger version of itself, then something else entirely. There are already versions of this kind of scaling up.
Thinking of the implications of such scaling in terms of exploring space, the concept is incredibly powerful. For example, one could harvest materials to print/cut from resources on an asteroid or planet and use small machines to make larger ones. Ship a robot and a couple of small Maker machines into space and they potentially can build bigger and bigger versions of themselves and everything else humans would need they need from almost any rock.