To support the trend toward personal fabrication, "business incubators" have begun giving would-be entrepreneurs a chance to rent 3-D printers, computerized numerically controlled (CNC) machines and laser cutters at low cost.
And now that electronics retailers have gotten into the act, a wider segment of the public is embracing them for personal use.
Are the printers affecting the production process at large manufacturers?
On the industrial front,
The forecast for the 3-D printer market is sanguine.
The size of the domestic market for 3-D printers, which was estimated at 1,620 units worth
Would mold-making jobs be threatened if manufacturers create all of their metallic molds with 3-D printers?
Mold makers fear they may lose contracts with big manufacturers like Panasonic.
Only a limited number of mold makers at present use 3-D printers because they are still expensive and limited in the size of the molds that can be created.
The initial cost for a German-made 3-D printer exceeds
"Many mold makers are taking a wait-and-see stance because the industrial printers are far from (having widespread) practical use," given the cost performance, Nakazato said.
Industry experts said it will take more time for professional-use 3-D printers to drop in price. Also, when it comes to exquisite molds and those requiring a great deal of strength, 3-D printers sometimes fall short, they said.
Can 3-D printers be used for sinister purposes?
Yes. They could be used, for example, to create molds for firearms, the designs for which are already on the Internet.
The potential of using the machines to make illegal weapons has raised controversy in
A group successfully fired the world's first printed gun at a firing range south of
The action alarmed anti-gun campaigners.
The same report alerted readers to the fact that 3-D printing technology has already been used by criminal elements to make card readers -- "skimmers" surreptitiously inserted into ATMs to steal bank and credit card numbers to make counterfeit cards or steal money electronically over the Internet.
The Weekly FYI appears Tuesdays. Readers are encouraged to send ideas, questions and opinions to email@example.com
(c)2013 the Japan Times (Tokyo)
Visit the Japan Times (Tokyo) at www.japantimes.co.jp/
Distributed by MCT Information Services