How do I know we live in the future? Because on Saturday I watched a couple of school kids enter a virtual world where they built a toy robot and were ready to manufacture it in a few hours.
At the Burbank Marriott last weekend, dozens of companies from the 3D modeling world showed off the latest production technology for the 3D Printer World Expo. It showcased the big and small players in 3D tech — from virtual sculpting programs to cameras that take 3D scans to the many machines that convert plastic into products.
For all the technology that descended on Burbank Saturday, I entered the expo just wanting to know how far off we are from owning 3D printers in our homes. When can I print out a replacement lid for the coffee pot I broke six months ago?
The allure of 3D printing right now is that engineers can realize prototype products in a few hours that are technically precise to within millimeters of their designs. Artists can realize Escher-like geometric patterns that would be literally impossible to construct by carving out of a block of material.