With the introduction of the automated build platform MakerBot has moved from the realm of affordable prototyping into ultra-low-cost manufacturing.
What’s most interesting to me about the possibility of a MakerBot as a manufacturing tool is that it may actually be the most cost-effective option for certain objects. For many objects, a injection-molded plastic solution will be the cheapest option. Overall, injection molded plastic is probably the most scalable method of plastic manufacturing.
But, what if you have an object that can only be effectively created by3D printing? It’s more problematic to print overhangs with 3D printing but it does have the possibility to create fully functional captive parts without the need for assembly. My favorite example is probably Zaggo’s treasure chest, pictured above. By printing the hinge’s pins extending into the other half of the printed object, Zaggo was able to print an object that just cannot be created by other, typically cheaper, means.
An interesting side effect of printing “captive” parts is that it can reduce or eliminate production times – since the parts are created together, they don’t need to be assembled.
This means there’s an object (and possibly a business mdoel) out there that is best suited for production on a MakerBot! 1
I wrote a post earlier in the week asking what you would do with a fully automatic MakerBot before I heard about extent of the MakerBot ‘Botfarm. What would you do with an army of robots at your disposal? Bonus points for any ideas that involve objects that can only be printed using FDM.
- I’m excluding commercial 3D FDM printers from the running because of their “cheap printer, expensive toner” business models. They’re just not meant for large scale production. [↩]
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