3D printing and digital fabrication is one of those rare technological developments that has overwhelming potential. But it can be a very expensive activity to break into.
Last November, a 3D studio called CUBE opened at Shibuya in Tokyo, providing a place to test expensive 3D printers and scanners which would otherwise be inaccessible for most individuals due to their extremely high costs. The studio will hold workshops and coursework to train individuals in the use of this 3D equipment. CUBE is located on the second floor of the same building as FabCafe, a “laser-cutting” cafe run by Loftwork.
The lineup of equipment installed at CUBE includes:
- 3D printers: manufactured by 3D Systems (US), Projet series, Vflash and others
- 3D scanners: manufactured by Breuckmann (SmartSCAN-HE, Body-SCAN), S3 scanner (US)
- 3D software: FreeForm (US), rapidformXOR/XOV (South Korea), 3D-CAD/CG
The above image is of a plastic wrench produced by a 3D printer. It was distributed to the participants of CUBE’s opening ceremony held in October. As you can see, even the rotating adjustment section is included, and that sort of detail is indicative of the enormous potential of 3D printing. The possibilities are practically endless.
The book The Pirate’s Dilemma also makes mention of 3D printing, pointing out that major manufacturers such as Sony, Adidas, BMW already use 3D printers when creating in-house prototypes of goods that will ultimately be manufactured at scale. Prototyping is also one of the essential elements in the Design Thinking method, and the simplicity of preparing prototypes using this new digital fabrication technology could spur a wave of innovation.
CUBE, which gives people hands on experience with some of the most advanced equipment in the world, will be highly valued in Japan, where a new wave of manufacturers seem poised to sweep the nation.