by Atul Sethi,TNN
Angad Daryani, a 15-year-old Mumbai resident, found it tough to convince his dad to part with the Rs one lakh required for buying a ready-to-use 3D printer. So he decided to make one himself. "Eventually, I could do it in half the amount," says Daryani, who is now planning to sell his assembled printers, which can make a physical object from a three-dimensional digital model, at under Rs 20,000 - a price he claims is the cheapest in the country.
The youngest Indian to build a 3D printer at home, Daryani represents a growing breed of Do-It-Yourself (DIY) enthusiasts who are assembling their own machines. Many of them are hobbyists and creators who can't sit still unless they are making something.
Karan Chaphekar, another Mumbaikar, built his first 3D printer almost three years ago after he had built his first robot. "I was looking for something exciting to make and stumbled upon the world of 3D printers," says the 24-year-old ardent Star Wars fan. Not surprisingly, one of the first things that came out of his printer was a bust of Yoda, complete with trademark pointed ears and worry-lines, finely etched in white plastic.
Watching a 3D model slowly 'come to life' as the printer spews rings of moulded plastic, can be exciting. But how tough is it to assemble a 3D printer? "Most of the popular DIY desktop 3D printers are based on open source designs like RepRap which are easy to use. In fact, the technology is such that any class 12 student can assemble it and make it work within 48 hours." says Rakesh Shishodia of 3D Printonics that regularly organizes workshops to introduce home users to 3D printing.
The presence of a vibrant '3D makers' community on the web also helps. "The internet is full of resources - from websites featuring 3D models of objects to open source developer forums - where information and updates are regularly exchanged," says Chaphekar. As for the printer components, some are imported while quite a few are now available locally. "The beauty of an open source 3D printer is that it can also print its own parts. It's a self-replicating machine. We can, in a sense, print a new printer from an existing printer in a few hours," says Asil Rohit, another ardent DIYer, who won a competition to make affordable 3D printers at his college Manipal Institute of Technology. The 19-year-old now runs a start-up that has sold almost 10 assembled printers in the two months since it launched.
Observers say that the growing tribe of DIYers has the potential to start what is being termed as a desktop 3D printer revolution. "The situation is quite similar to the one a few decades ago when enthusiasts would assemble desktop personal computers. Just like computers revolutionized the way we work, this, too, has the potential to change how we create products in the future," says Zalak Shah, research associate at technology research firm Gartner India. However, it's early days yet. While industrial 3D printers have started pushing limits on the kind of products they can create - from aircraft parts to human tissues - the field is still evolving for desktop DIY printers. The products being churned out by DIYers are currently limited to stuff like toys, mementos, personalized smartphone cases, artificial jewellery etc with occasional experiments in printing gummy, barely edible food. On the horizon, though, are newer areas where they can play a more utilitarian role.
An interesting application is in waste management. "Home 3D printers have the potential to start a recycling revolution in the country," says Rohit. "We are looking at a scenario a few years down the line when instead of throwing a used Coke can into the dustbin, you throw it into your printer and voila, it gets converted into something useful like cutlery."
Another obvious area is education. Nikhil Velpanur, who runs a Bangalore-based technology incubator, says that prints of 3D models may soon become an integral part of teaching. "Imagine how easy it would be for a child to relate to a subject like chemistry if she is able to hold a 3D print of a molecule and see how it is formed."
As 3D printing becomes more utilitarian and finds application in everyday life - possibilities of printing regular medicines and exquisite food from a 3D printer at home are being touted as a reality in a few years' time - the cost of desktop 3D printers is expected to go down. This might impact the DIYers in the long run. "Currently, it is much cheaper to make your own 3D printer than buy an off-the shelf one," says Shishodia. "But as new players enter the market and the price point goes down, the DIY segment will diminish. However, this will take a few years at least..till then, the DIYers will continue to grow the market." http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/tech/tech-news/hardware/Making-3D-printers-now-childs-play/articleshow/29765072.cms