ThimphuTech was the first technology blog in Bhutan. We started writing it in 2009, just as broadband and mobile internet started to take off. (Although internet in Bhutan was launched in 1999, it was either super-slow or super-expensive, and was only used by a selected few).

In the blog, we wrote about technology and food, but also about plenty of other stuff. The blog became popular and influential in Bhutan. A companion bi-weekly column -- Ask Boaz -- was published for many years in the Kuensel, Bhutan's national newspaper. (The complete Kuensel columns are available as an ebook, Blogging with Dragons).

We stopped updating the blog when we left Bhutan in 2014, but the information within the posts can still prove useful, and thus we decided to keep it online.

We thank all our readers.
Tashi Delek,
Boaz & Galit.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

All about 3D Printing (K2 #62)

Question of the Week
Someone told me you can buy a 3D printer. What is a 3D printer? Is it used to make 3D movies?
— “Jigs”

Dear “Jigs”,
Sorry to disappoint you, but a 3D printer is not used to make 3D movies. A 3D printer is a machine that manufactures three-dimensional objects by laying – or “printing” – very thin layers of material, one on top of the other, until the desired object is formed. To “print” the object, a computer file that contains the exact layout is sent to the printer. The machine starts with the bottom-most layer, waits until that layer solidifies, then prints the second layer, and so on until the last layer is printed. Depending on the exact 3D printing technology, different materials can be used, including metal, plaster, ceramics, resins and more.

One can only imagine the possibility of having such a printer at home. For example, instead of going to the market to buy, say, a teacup, you download a file from the Internet with your favorite cup design, edit the color and handle size, hit the “Print” button, and after a few minutes, you sip your suja from a utensil that you manufactured! Or you can print a plastic toy for your nephew, or your own customized jewelry, or perhaps a replacement cover for your mobile phone. Think about it – you basically have a small manufacturing plant at home. Many experts think that 3D technology will create the next industrial revolution. They are probably right.

While businesses and organizations have been using 3D printers for quite some time, commercial printers tended to be very expensive – in the order of hundreds of thousands of dollars. In recent years, however, consumer models have started to roll out. Last week the US-based chain Staples announced that it will start selling a desktop 3D printer for $1300. This is still out-of-reach for many, but remember that the first desktop laser printer cost around $13,000, and now you can buy a perfectly good one in Thimphu for Nu 5000. Perhaps one day many homes will have their own 3D printers.

Look ama, I just printed you a shoe!
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