Let's Get Fired Up

Helldoom the Bloodslurper, a set of lower teeth, a finger ring shaped like a skull and a curvy appliance handle—these were some of the objects arrayed on the countertop as part of a display at a recent trade show. The odd assortment had three things in common, the most important being a powerful appeal to the imagination.

Columns From: 5/1/2007 Modern Machine Shop, ,

Helldoom the Bloodslurper, a set of lower teeth, a finger ring shaped like a skull and a curvy appliance handle—these were some of the objects arrayed on the countertop as part of a display at a recent trade show. The odd assortment had three things in common, the most important being a powerful appeal to the imagination.

The first thing they had in common was size. Each could fit into a space about the volume and shape of a coffee can. That included Helldoom the Bloodslurper (or was it the Warbeast Fangerdor? —I should have taken a closer look), who was represented here as a 1-inch-high, cast-pewter figure from a fantasy war-game supplier. All of the items were suitable for the 6-inch diameter turntable of the desktop 3D scanner being introduced at the show.

That was the second thing they had in common. These objects were being used to demonstrate the scanning capability of this low-cost system. (See www.nextengine.com for details.) The scanner turntable rotates an object while a set of laser “eyes” captures scan data from multiple, triangulated views. System software assembles and manipulates this data to create a 3D model that can be translated into a CAD file. The next step is formatting the file for a 3D printer or generating tool paths for a CNC machine.

That brings up the third unifying aspect of the collection: It sparked creative thinking. At the booth to help promote the scanning system was Ted Hauser, owner of a job shop that did beta-site testing of this technology. He and I started talking about the exciting projects that this technology opened up, as suggested by the novelty and diversity of the demo pieces. The scanner not only created opportunities for his existing customer base, but also attracted newcomers responding to the entrepreneurial spirit, such as design engineers, studio artists, inventors in the medical field and even some hobbyists who had product ideas to develop.

Talking about the possibilities got my creative juices flowing. I could tell that Ted was equally enthusiastic about the prospects for imaginative applications.

Ted and I agreed that this and other advances in technology are likely to have a profound effect on the who, when and where of making things. The emerging generation of machinists, shop owners, manufacturing professionals and their customers will consist of a different sort of individual, one motivated by the creative imagination and characterized by a skill set and outlook not typical today. They will come from unusual paths and unexpected starting points. No doubt many who are eager to take a new direction will come from existing ranks in shops and plants. They represent the “new blood” that will revitalize and fire up this industry.

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