A few years ago, I was one of the original members of LVL1, Louisville’s hackerspace/makerspace. One of our first prize acquisitions was a MakerBot, which was a 3-D printer for hobbyists. I don’t remember the cost, but I do remember a couple of guys dedicating at least one, if not more, all night building session to assemble it.
The University of Louisville has had a Rapid Prototyping Center (RPC) for many years, but it was generally used for research. The RPC had several more sophisticated 3D printers, some of which could fabricate parts out of metals, most notably titanium.
Beginning in about 2012, the Department of Industrial Engineering acquired some slightly more sophisticated 3-d printers for student use. These were still “hobbyist” level printers. Students were able to design and build small parts as part of their manufacturing courses.
Now it seems the technology is about to go full circle. The hobbyist level printers are getting more sophisticated. The commercial machine are getting more competitive in price, and the line between the two is becoming more fuzzy all the time.
In July of 2015, The University of Louisville, along with Underwriters Laboratories announced the creation of a training center to teach the next generation of engineers and technicians in the use of state of the art additive manufacturing technology tools.
At the time that we got our first 3D printer at LVL1, many of us hypothesized the commercialization and industrial uses of 3D printing, but I am not sure we expected the technology to improve so fast.
Yet another lesson learned… better not blink or you will be left behind.