It's less than two months before his company's initial product launch, and CEO Ric Fulop is excitedly showing off rows of stripped-down 3-D printers, several bulky microwave furnaces, and assorted small metal objects on a table for display. Behind a closed door, a team of industrial designers sit around a shared work desk, each facing a large screen. The wall behind them is papered with various possible looks for the startup's ambitious products: 3-D printers that can fabricate metal parts cheaply and quickly enough to make the technology practical for widespread use in product design and manufacturing. The company, Desktop Metal, has raised nearly $100 million from leading venture capital firms and the venture units of such companies as General Electric, BMW, and Alphabet. The founders include four prominent MIT professors, including the head of the school's department of materials science and Emanuel Sachs, who filed one of the original patents on 3-D printing in 1989.
Jessie Frazelle is the cofounder and chief product officer of the Oxide Computer Company. Before that, she worked on various parts of Linux, including containers, and the Go programming language. More online: A version of this article with embedded informational links is availble at https://queue.acm.org/detail.cfm?id 3430113
Factories, the chief innovation of the industrial revolution, are cathedrals of productivity, built to shelter specialized processes and encourage the division of labor. Adam Smith, who illuminated their function on the first page of The Wealth of Nations, offered the celebrated example of a pin factory: "I have a seen a small manufactory… where ten men only were employed, and where some of them consequently performed two or three distinct operations. But the benefits of factories suggest their limitations. They are not reprogrammable: To make different products, a factory must retool with different machines. Thus, the first product shipped is much more expensive than the next million, and innovation is hobbled by need for capital expenditure and is never rapid.
Over the last few decades, it has been making waves in many industries around the world. This describes the creation of an object by adding material to the object layer by layer. Throughout its history, additive manufacturing has gone by various names, inlcuding stereolithography, 3D layering, and 3D printing, but 3D printing is the best-known. So how do 3D printers work? The process of 3D printing begins by making a graphic model of the object to be printed.
Additive manufacturing has been hyped for years. But in 2017 much of its promise materialized: 3-D printing took a series of big steps out of the realm of niche prototyping and into the world of mass manufacturing. Here's a look at some of the most impressive things 3-D printers made this year, as well as what their creations portend for the future.