(Photo by Christopher Wink)
A $175 yellow plastic toy tractor is one expensive toy. Or a really affordable prototype. That’s where additive manufacturing, better known as 3D printing, is as an industry today, disrupting product development processes, but not quite changing household functions. Yet.
So says Joe Otto, the founder of Sovereign Air, a 3D printing shop in Newark, during a presentation for the Tech Forum of Delaware on Wednesday. For all the buzz about rapid prototyping, no more than “five percent” of the industries that could use the technology are, said Otto, to an audience of 70 at the University of Delaware STAR Campus.
He’s betting on becoming Delaware’s gateway to the technology.
Sovereign Air offers regular classes to introduce and prepare people to what’s possible and has an array of 3D printers to manufacture client projects on command.
“Am I a guy who thinks everyone will have a 3D printer in their house and no one will ever leave because they’ll make whatever they need? No,” said Otto. Rather, the experimentation of today will find the best, most common uses that will give a lasting role to consumer 3D printers — industry utility for the technology is already a near certainty.
Though 3D printing was developed in 1983, the technology has blossomed in the last decade, brought to the masses with the help of consumer companies like Brooklyn-based MakerBot. (The borough has a burgeoning additive manufacturing ecosystem.) Now, while the hardware is ready for household use, “it’s the software that’s holding everyone back,” said Otto.
The software most use to develop the SLA files that 3D printers need to operate isn’t nearly as consumer friendly, he said. That’s because many of the giants who have done the most interesting work in the space, like Boeing, have their own proprietary software, and until recently, the market for consumer software remained small.
“It’s not about the [3D printer],” Otto said. “The design and the designer make great products … and the software helps that.”-30-
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