(Photo by Anitra Johnson)
Remember the old adage, “if you can dream it, you can achieve it”? 3D printing makes that adage a reality, and thanks to expiring patents, 3D printing is not just for large manufacturers and engineers anymore.
“It all starts with someone at the hobbyist level,” says Matthew Gorton, owner of Printed Solid, a 3D printer showroom, sales and production facility in Newark that opened a brick and mortar store last year. Gorton opened the shop shortly after Joe Otto’s Newark 3D printing shop Sovereign Air shut down.
According to 3dhubs.com, the consumer 3D printing industry took off in 2009 after the expiration of several patents, and the industry has doubled in size every year since. With the ability to take an idea from digital design to physical prototype in a matter of days, 3D printing sharply decreases the cost of manufacturing for the consumer market – and at the individual level.
Tucked around a bend on Ogletown Road, the Printed Solid showroom displays 3D printed items visitors and Gorton left for display. There are chess pieces, art pieces and wheeled doohickeys for you to examine and touch. You’ll also find the different types of printer machines sold by Printed Solid, which are busy creating more 3D printed items. You can even test drive a few 3D printers with own your own ideas for pottery, ornaments or a prosthetic limb — whatever you can think of.
Gorton, 39, says his primary customers are entrepreneurs, established businesses, schools and libraries, but the main drivers of new business are hobbyists. He used to be a hobbyist himself. A mechanical engineer by profession, Gorton started 3D printing as an outlet while working in management at Gore. His interest grew, and soon afterwards, he started PrintedSolid.com, an ecommerce site selling 3D printers, printer filament and replacement parts. He opened his 3D printer showroom to the public in May 2016 as a place where people interested in 3D printing can get together, share ideas and learn from each other.
In addition to a day-long training with the purchase of his “hobbyist-level” machines, once a month Gorton hosts a meetup for people to talk about their 3D printing experiences, mingle with other enthusiasts or get expert advice. You can also visit a Delaware public library that’s equipped with a 3D printer, like the Wilmington Public Library. Gorton helps trains Delaware library staff on how to use the printers.
Printed Solid also recently had a booth at the NoVa Maker Faire in Reston, Va.
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But with the 3D printer consumer market doubling every year, soon every household will have a 3D printer, right? “There was one point in time where the hobbyist industry envisioned a future where everyone had one of these on their counter,” Gorton says. “I don’t think that’s a realistic future. I do see community centers where you can go in and get something made fairly quickly – like what the libraries are doing.”
[Our sister site Technically Brooklyn covers MakerBot who came to face to face with the reality that 3D printers were not going to be as ubiquitous as laptops. Check out Technically Brooklyn’s coverage here.]
So just imagine, then design it and print it out on a 3D printer. Now with lower financial barriers to equipment and material, and support from others, someone new to 3D printing can actually, and not just metaphorically, make dreams reality.