Electronics and automobile makers were the first here to start using 3-D printers to make product prototypes, but the trend is spreading to industries ranging from home builders to jewelers, toy companies and medical companies interested in crafting replacement organs.
Here are some questions and answers on 3-D printers:
How do 3-D printers work and will Japanese companies make them?
The printers render designs of objects drafted by CAD/CAM software not via ink, but by extruding plastic or metal on multiple axes so that a three-dimensional object is formed.
There are several types, but the most popular is one that renders objects by squeezing out heated resin in layers.
Some produce objects by sintering metallic powders multiple times. The metallurgical process entails using pressure and heat to create a bonded mass of metal particles.
Another sintering process uses plaster powders, which allows ink to be sprayed on the object's surface.
The 3-D printer market is dominated by U.S.-based companies
Why have 3-D printers gained so much attention recently?
The trend took off when former Wired magazine editor-in-chief and author
Attention grew further in May this year after someone "printed" out a functioning pistol made almost entirely of plastic.
When the printers first hit the market about two decades ago, they were big, expensive and limited to making prototypes of products in the aviation, automobile and other heavy industries.
As improvements emerged and CAD/CAM software prices dropped, the printers became more geared toward personal use. Software that once cost at least
Are Japanese entrepreneurs looking into 3-D printers?
An increasing number of young entrepreneurs are using 3-D printers to make trial products.
Reasonably priced machines and software make it possible to generate prototypes quickly and cheaply, sometimes in a few hours. But the prototypes aren't as sophisticated as those made with conventional metallic molds, which are costly and require weeks to produce.
Most Popular Stories
- Hezbollah Chief's Assassination Claimed by Sunni Group
- Allstate Seeks to Invest in Minority Firms
- SpaceX's Satellite Launch Is 'Game-Changer'
- U.S. Growth Stayed Steady During Shutdown, Fed Says
- Latin Music Conference Turns 25
- Newtown Massacre Heard on 911 Recordings
- Climate Change Early Warning System Urged
- Reid Confident Congress to Pass Immigration Bill
- New Home Sales Shoot up 25 Percent in October
- Guardian Pressured to Stop NSA Stories: Editor