1 of 5
A bright green head printed at 3D Central rocks a pair of headphones. (Photo by Maureen McNabb)
2 of 5
Hmm, this figure looks familiar. (Photo by Maureen McNabb)
3 of 5
This wall displays 3-D printed objects that were custom-ordered. (Photo by Maureen McNabb)
4 of 5
3-D printed chess, anyone? (Photo by Maureen McNabb)
5 of 5
(From Left): Andrew Sink, Chris Caswell, Ian Sole, and Cyndi Laird. (Photo by Maureen McNabb)
A new 3-D printing store can help you create almost anything, from a bust of yourself to a custom-fit prosthetic.
The shop, 3D Central at 1308 W. Main St., has walls lined with colorful printed pieces, including octopus magnets, intricate key chains, a replica of the Master Sword from the Nintendo game The Legend of Zelda, and the plasma sword from the Xbox game Halo.
“If you can think of it, you can make it and that’s what makes this so much fun,” says Ian Sole, who owns the store with husband-and-wife team Chris Caswell and Cyndi Laird. Andrew Sink is the production manager.
The shop uses spools of ABS plastic (the plastic LEGOs are made from) and corn plastic (produced from corn resin) to feed into the printers to create objects. Caswell says they are looking to expand into rubber, nylon and wood composites soon.
The cost to commission a piece varies, but an average price is $100 to $300. The average cost for a pre-made item is $1 to $65.
The ability to draw or upload an image and then physically create it through the use of a 3-D printer brings to mind the Star Trek universe’s replicators, devices that could make almost anything.
Star Trek fans themselves, the staff says today’s 3-D printing technology is on the forefront of making replicators a reality. No, you can’t be Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, and say “Tea, Earl Grey, hot,” and have the beverage and cup just appear, but you can make a replica of Picard’s teacup.
Three questions commonly arise when thinking about purchasing a 3-D printer:
Is it affordable? At 3D Central, printer prices run from $600 to just under $7,000 (far from the early costs of about $100,000 in the 1980s).
Can I use it? The shop offers adult and youth classes every other week for $30 per two-hour session, and every 3-D printer purchase includes a free class.
What can I do with it? Much like the days of using clip art, search online for free, open-source designs.
“When you cover those three things, then the rest is just up to your own imagination,” says Sole.
Watch as the 3D Central staff walks us through the 3-D printing process:
(Video shot and produced by Maureen McNabb)