The Future Feels a Little Bit Closer
I write often enough about 3D printing systems and "desktop fabrication" that when something that I shouldn't be startled by just how fast this industry is advancing. And yet: the ZPrinter 450 looks just amazing. The promotional video is almost surreal -- and if somebody had sent it to me as an example of an "artifact from the future," I would have believed them. This is a giant, sparkly, screaming harbinger of what the next decade will hold.
It's not quite desktop fabbing just yet, but it's oh so very close: it's about a single order of magnitude off in price ($40K) and speed ("output models in hours, not days") from being consumer-friendly, and needs to be about half of its current size. That'll happen, probably by the end of this decade (if not sooner). With the "high-performance composite" polymers used as base stock, it looks like dumb objects would be pretty easy to make. The big leap in capability will happen when they can start printing out objects using truly complex polymers as core materials, particularly electroactive polymers (which can move) and organic-electronic polymers (which can compute).