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3D printers go mainstream

UK electronics chain Maplin has become the first high street retailer to sell 3D printers to consumers.

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is widely viewed as an essential component in the future of manufacturing. The printers work by building tiny layers of plastic on top of each other to make a three-dimensional object.

Maplin seeks to capture a market which has traditionally been restricted to professional printing shops. The idea seems to be catching on, as indicated by the 30-day delay for deliveries of the K8200 3D printer ordered from the company’s Website. At £700, Maplin’s printer brings 3D technology within reach of ordinary consumers, allowing them to print a range of three-dimensional objects in the privacy of their homes.

Users can print simple items such as a mobile phone case in just half an hour, while more complicated items such as jewellery require several hours for full rendering. Dutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen even used the technology to create shoes unveiled at a Paris fashion show this summer. The new technology recently provoked an outcry in the United States after a student successfully built a functioning gun with the printer and later posted the designs on the Internet.

A 3D printer is about the same size as a normal printer, though plastic raw material cartridges are considerably more expensive to replace than ink cartridges.



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