Last Friday, I went up to Brooklyn, NY to pay a visit to Makerbot Headquarters. One of their engineers showed me around, and now I want a Replicator even more than before!
Their big, warehouse-type room housed a design team whose job is to test out the printers by coming up with interesting 3D models. I'd call that my dream job (except that it was 100 degrees outside and their office isn't air conditioned!) There were also maybe 15 Replicators scattered around, with maybe 10 churning out various things.
Here's a short video I took of the Replicator building up a pumpkin - they wanted something orange to test out a new orange plastic color. The model looked to be about 4 or 5 inches high when completed, and the total production time was maybe 3 hours.
They have a lot of display cases about, showing off some of the fun things they've printed.
My thoughts on the Replicator involve taking it to schools, libraries, labs, etc, and getting kids to design and print whatever comes to mind. Apparently the majority of these models start either in Tinkercad (for the younger crowd) or SketchUp (for more sophisticated designs). For organic shapes, like that pumpkin above, the designers used Zbrush.
The main drawback, at least at this time, is that a small model (think around 3" x 3" x 3" or similar) can take an hour or more to print. So the machine would need to be kept somewhere for a few days at least, assuming each kid in a class wants to print his or her own thing.
If you have one of these machines, I'd love to hear feedback! Email: bonnie - at - 3dvinci.net.
Anyone can design anything in 3D! http://www.3dvinci.net/