Planning for 3D Metal Printing on Desktop

The Holy Grail of 3D printing has always been the ability to fabricate 3D objects in metal. Plastics are nice. However, consumers still prefer that some objects are fabricated in metal. Until now, 3D printing in metal  has only been available to those who are capable of paying $100 plus price tag. In all likelihood, you will see this change in the near future as desktop models enter the marketplace.

The price point is still in flux. A company called Norge announced a 3D selective laser sintering (SLS) with $13,000 price point. For the record, selective laser sintering (SLS) is the more technical way of saying 3D metal printing. Either way you say it, this price point is little too high for the consumer market. On the other hand, Sintratec‘s $3,999 price point is a much better target for consumer markets.

What this means for makerspace development is that new services need to be designed that take advantage of desktop SLS printing. Existing makerspaces need to budget for the addition of this new class of fabrication tools. Makerspaces that are still on the drawing board will need to adjust their plans so that they can accommodate the new opportunities that desktop SLS provide.

Desktop SLS won’t kill the market for refrigerator size alternatives. However, they will come to dominate it. Just like the PC didn’t actually kill the market for mainframes in certain niche applications. PC’s did usher in a new era of opportunities for creatives (i.e. members of the creative class). So it stands to reason that desktop SLS will empower a new larger creative class. And that’s really what it’s all about in the end.

Zachary Alexander