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When will it end?
I'm talking about the endless press coverage of the coming "drone" age.
First there was stone, then bronze and iron ages. Now we really do seem to be on the brink of the drone age in which every man and his dog is claiming they'll be using these things for all manner of tasks.
A week or two ago we saw Amazon claiming they were planning to use these things to deliver packages and today DHL announced it is testing delivery drones with a view to using them for dropping consignments off to hard-to-reach locations.
With the price of manned aviation continuing to climb at an alarming rate, it is now beyond doubt that these pilotless craft will become increasingly used as a cost-effective alternative.
So should we be training our kids in drone-technology?
There have been a few breakthroughs in 3D printing recently.Most of us probably think of 3D printing as those relatively crude devices that spew molten plastic out of what is little more than a hot-glue-gun. That hot glue is laid onto a moving platform and, by virtue of some movement in the X-Y planes and a process of creating successive layers in the Z plane, an object is built.
That makes 3D printing slow, limited to thermoplastic materials and not always 100% accurate.
A single mis-step in any of the axes can wreck an entire "build" and because of the relatively limited resolution involved, the resultant products are often hardly "showroom quality" when finished.
What's more, thermoplastics are okay for some applications but what if you want something that is hard, resistant to high temperatures, conductive or requires other properties not possible to achieve with plastic?
Well it seems that significant progress is being made in the area of 3D printing with metals.
Using a sintered material that is then fused with a laser, good results are being achieved that offer resolutions an order of magnitude better than today's plastic-printers and an ability to produce items that would previously have been cast or machined from solid metal.
Once this technology becomes widely available, many fitters and turners may face the same plight as the blacksmith of early last century.
The arrival of affordable multi-material 3D printing will also, I predict, produce an era of massive innovation and creativity.
Right now, many people have wonderful ideas but lack the funding and resources needed to turn those ideas into reality. The set-up costs of injection-molding, die-casting, CNC machining and other processes that 3D printing could replace are very high. Multi-material 3D printing could at last make it practical for entrepreneurs to produce short runs of their products at a price that would be acceptable to the market and without massive tooling costs.
Personally, I can't wait for that!
Sorry, the headlines haven't been updated today
(sorry Forums are stuffed at the moment)
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