posted on Feb, 10 2004 @ 10:34 PM
How the printer works is that there is a small 'sprayer' bar that moves back and forth like your printer cartridge carrier does, but also moves up a
bit with each pass. In the box that it moves through there is a substrate material (I believe it is white or a creme color). In each pass it
distributes a bit of solvent glue where it should be, kinda like your printer does (print a color page and look really closely... you see all the
dots? That is one dot printed by the ink cartridge. These dots are layered to make different colors, or a certain amount of blue dots are layed out,
then one red, more blues, another red, etc to achieve the desired color). Once it is done 'printing' you have a big SOLID (glued together) chunk of
the substrate material in the shape of whatever you wanted!
The use for these printers aren't for manufacture, but rather for prototyping intricate, or otherwise unmachinable parts fairly quickly. After you
print one part or the different parts, you can use these to make a mold. The advantage is that you won't have to machine a new part when it starts
losing specific tolerances from continuously making molds off of it. As well, you can take a prototype idea straight from your computer to an actual
part for show without having to go through elaborate and costly procedures.
There are other uses, yes... but the substrate is just a form of plastic and is otherwise unuseable as a finished product. When you figure in the cost
of having someone take an idea that you have done on your computer, specifically machine it, and everything else, the $40k seems like a penny in a
potful. Believe me... these would/are useful in such buisiness as engineering, automotive design, etc.
I remember reading about these printers about 4 or 5 years ago... they are nothing new, but everyone has such high expectations of them that they
haven't really caught on. People think it's like Star-Trek or something and think these will make you a metal gear or a freakin edible hotdog.
Either way, they are still freakin kewl!