Makers move CES

10 January 2013 by Steve Blum
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Today an arm, tomorrow a kidney.

One of the most talked about technologies at CES this week is 3D printing. When asked what impressed them most at the show, four out of four FCC commissioners – who might be expected to focus on telecommunications gear – said is was the promise of making physical objects, even human kidneys, with the technology.

Makerbot showed its Replicator 2X, intended for producing commercial products. Sculpteo pushed its cloud-based production and fulfillment service. Upload a design to their server, and they'll take of the rest, including shipping to your customers. You can also use it to produce your own customized iPhone case. Their platform provides the design tools.

Cubify is targeting the consumer market. Their Cube model is designed for kids to use, although it'll be reasonably well-heeled parents that buy it: basic price is $1,300. Their prosumer models range from $2,500 to $4,000, with the top end unit capable of laying down three different colors of plastic simultaneously.

Start-ups were showing products they produced with 3D printing technology. A Loveland, Colorado company, Road Narrows, is selling a robotic arm with a video camera built into the claw. Just point and grab. It runs on a Linux Gumstick and is completely hackable – it's aimed at the research market. The mechanically complex device is made from ABS plastic on a 3D printer.

The technology evens the manufacturing playing field for garage-scale start-ups. There were just a few of them showing products at CES this year, but by next year it could be a flood.