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An exciting project that may have long-term effects on the crowdsourcing industry recently completed its fundraising on Kickstarter. The Bukobot, created by Diego Porqueras, aims to make 3D printers affordable, the most basic model costing only $599.
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, has been a popular topic of late, and no wonder. Given the technology’s potential impact on virtually every industry that relies on manufacturing of parts — from airplane wings to femur implants — additive manufacturing promises to be a game-changer.
Porqueras’ campaign raised over $167,000 – four times his initial $42,000 goal. The Bukobots vary in size, the number of extruders, color, and their eco-friendliness, among other things. The most economical model has a build volume of 5x5x6 inches, while the flagship version is larger, measuring in at 8x8x8 inches. The Bukobots can use either ABS, similar to plastic used for Legos, or PLA, a more eco-friendly material, to print the creations.
An open source fan, Porqueras plans to release the framework design files to the general population. This will not only enable capable engineers to build their own versions, but to also help improve the design of the printer as more people contribute their ideas and changes to the original blueprint. Keeping with the open source idea, many 3D printer designs are free and available on sites like Thingiverse. Currently, items on the site range from art objects to bottle openers and NERF-compatible dart blasters.
That an affordable and potentially widespread 3D printer comes from a crowdfunding campaign is fitting. Already, sites like Quirky and Shapeways are using additive manufacturing to help create — as well as market and sell — user-submitted concepts. As the technology becomes more affordable and widespread, its effects on crowdsourced projects will be great.
For one, creating a design for a product and printing a single copy in one’s living room is much quicker and cheaper than sending the blueprint and prototype to be manufactured elsewhere in large quantities to take advantage of economies of scale. If the product design is faulty, the creator can alter it and re-print the tweaked version in a matter of hours, leading to gradual improvements and fixing ‘glitches’ in the blueprints.
The ability to quickly redesign and begin printing out new versions of a product ties in well with the pledge-based model of crowdfunding — donate an extra $20, and your name will appear on a truly one-of-a-kind version of the product. Highly customizable products may also be resold many times to the same customers. If an original backer likes the product, for example, she may create more custom versions and give them to her friends and family as holiday presents.
For now, it remains to be seen just how far the technology will go. While it may still be some time until additive manufacturing is a household technology, innovative uses of 3D printing may appear in only a few months’ time — when Porqueras’ backers begin to receive their Bukobots.