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Jumps off the Page

Jumps Off the Page
by Gary Woods

I've had a lot of printers. The first was an Epson Dot Matrix that I think resides in the Smithsonian now. Then came the HP LaserJet 2 followed by another Epson, this time a Color Ink Jet. It looked great but man those cartridges cost a lot. Next came an HP Color LaserJet 4600 which was a monster followed by the workhorse HP LaserJet 5. Currently I'm using an HP CP3525 Color LaserJet which was pricey but works great.

All of those printers were good for their time but the printer industry is about to take a giant leap forward and that leap is 3D printing. The technical name for this technology is Additive Manufacturing which is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital model by laying down successive layers of material. 3D printing is considered distinct from traditional machining techniques which is subtractive and relies on the removal of material by methods such as cutting and drilling.

3D printers take virtual designs from computer aided design (CAD) or animation modeling software and then transform that data into thin, virtual, horizontal cross-sections stacking up successive layers until the model is complete. To perform a print job the machines reads in the design and then lays down successive layers of liquid, powder or sheet material and builds that material up into the model from a series of cross sections. These layers are then joined together of fused automatically to create the final shape.

The industries that will benefit most from this technology will be things like jewelry making, footwear manufactures, architecture, engineering, automotive, aerospace, dental and medical industries, education, geographic information systems and civil engineering.

The technology has actually been around since the 80s but until relatively recently the price for these printers was in the $100,000 range. Now you can find one for as low about $1,500.

If you have any suggestions or questions for me please drop me a note at or see my column on the Internet at or call me at (805) 729-0910

Gary Woods is the Computer Trainer for the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors. And he is a Broker/Associate at Home Realty & Investments, Inc