The constant buzz around 3D printer technology is finally making its way into the mainstream, and a new company in Chicago is inviting consumers to try the revolutionary concept firsthand. The 3D printing experience, a new space that opened in Chicago on Monday, educates the public on how technology works by offering a chance to watch or experience the printing process.
Customers can have their head scanned and reproduced in a 3D portrait, create jewelry or smaller items like iPhone cases, and can request custom printed items. The setup includes around 20 printers, including an industrial-grade printer that co-founder Julie Freidman Steele said TIME was the first of its kind to be available to the public. Most industrial 3D printers are generally not available for retail sale. The industrial-grade printer costs around a quarter of a million dollars, while other printers used include smaller mini-printers available for purchase for around $ 1,000, as well as MakerBot machines, which cost between 1,800. and $ 2,400.
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“We’re trying to create this massive adoption of manufacturing to bring it back to the United States and to anyone, for that matter, anywhere in the world,” Steele said.
Printing costs around $ 20, but customers are welcome to play and design items for free. Although the space has only been open for a few days, Steele says she has already printed a violin as well as a prototype inexpensive water filter that Haitians can use at investment meetings. “What’s really unique is that we don’t have an inventory,” Steele says. “We can print everything on site. “
The company also organizes workshops every evening, ranging from initiation to digitization to the creation of 3D objects such as iPhone cases. Customers can also earn $ 100 3D printing by completing “quest cards” or VIP cards that involve learning about the different processes involved, such as the different materials used by 3D printing.
“You can talk about 3D printing, but unless you have an intimate experience with the technology, it’s really hard to understand,” says Steele. “So we try to make sure everyone has an experience.”
With a growing freelance workforce, Steele says it’s important to educate the public about 3D printing and how to make their own things. She said there were no immediate plans to open up space in other cities, but was ready to work with social entrepreneurs to do so.
“We had a lawyer, an engineer, an artist, someone from downtown and a young kid who were all talking about 3D printing where they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to get together,” Steele said of the ‘opening. “They were all at the same level. It’s really cool to see how completely level the playing field is.