(Pocket-lint) - The Christmas holiday is here and with it comes presents and, inevitably, broken parts. It wouldn’t be a complete Christmas experience without some cheap plastic tat getting broken. But this year when dad goes off the the shed to try and fix it, he can go with new hope as 3D printing has arrived to help.
With the release of the RS RepRapPro Ormerod 3D printer the chance to churn out plastic printed parts is here and affordable at last. And thanks to a growing community on the Thingiverse, parts are becoming more readily available. Plus, if you have any design skills, you can design anything you need yourself.
Take tree decorations as an example. All it takes is a knock from a high speed child who thinks he’s a plane or an excited dog who’s had too much turkey and that star will come crashing from on high. A quick trip to the Thingiverse and you can download and print off an even better one. This Spiral Star Tree Topper is thin enough to allow light through with a whole for slipping a bulb in and mounting to the treetop. Plus it’s simple enough to be printed in two parts.
But the Thingiverse has its limits, as do the design abilities of a lot of people. That’s where 3D scanners come into their own. The most recent of these is from 3D Systems called Sense. This is a simple handheld 3D scanner that you can use to copy pretty much any basic object. So if a plastic part has broken on your child’s toy plane just lay it down, pushed back to its original position, give it a scan, and print another.
The great thing about this is people will soon be able to request and share parts. Say yours is broken and can’t even be pieced together to scan. You’ll be able to go online and find another copy of it or even request it so another person, with the working part, can scan it in for you. It’s almost like a world that can be backed up virtually for physical parts.
Of course right now these options don’t come cheap. Even the RS RepRapPro Ormerod 3D printer is £500 and that’s the world’s cheapest decent model. And the Sense scanner from 3D Systems is a further £280. Quite a lot to pay just to ensure spare parts for a child’s toy.
But this is just the start. By next Christmas those prices will likely have halved and more files will be available to download and print than ever before. This time next year you might be printing off all your 3D presents without leaving the house.