EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (WCCO) — Step inside the DigiFabLab on the University of Minnesota’s College of Design and Dean Tom Fisher can hardly contain his excitement.
“This is going to revolutionize production,” he says.
He’s talking about the promise presented by 3D printing. The dean refers to the cutting-edge technology as having the potential to lead to our third industrial revolution.
“It allows people to make things themselves at a very small scale, customize things,” he said. “So instead of having to go to a store and buy something that was mass produced, you can modify it by downloading a file and printing it out yourself.”
Already, 3D printers are turning out prosthetics for implant, parts for cars, even items of clothing. This week the English company Tamicare announced it has the technology to produce a non-woven fabric it calls “Cosyflex” into ladies panties.
“It transforms the learning process,” said Jesse Roitenberg, the education manager at Stratasys, the world’s largest maker of 3D printers.
The Eden Prairie company specializes in a wide variety of printers for industrial uses. It recently acquired MakerBot, a maker of consumer and educational 3D devices.
Stratasys recently printed an exoskeleton that is now helping a two-year-old girl use her weakened arms for the very first time. That’s just one of many medical products already being produced by the company’s line of 3D printers.
“It’s not growing a bone, but it’s replacing a hand,” Roitenberg said.
It’s understandable why Roitenberg and his company were ecstatic when President Obama announced during his State of the Union speech the goal of putting 3D printers in every public school.
On Wednesday, the company’s MakerBot division released a plan to do just that. They will combine forces with DonorsChoice.Org, a crowdfunding site for teachers to pledge financial support for the program.
It’s estimated that it would take about $250 million to purchase enough 3D printers for each of the nation’s 100,000 public schools.
Still, Roitenberg is excited by the possibilities, adding that “the students in the middle school level are already doing what engineers do in our company. We do this in house to make our products, to change our products…and middle school students now get access to do that.”