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3D Printing Comes To Jamaica

3D Printing Comes To Jamaica

Posted by Shanelle Weir on March 18, 2014

It's now possible to print your food, some body parts, and even weaponry as innovators test the limits of 3D printing technology. The concept has now reached Jamaica, courtesy of Pear Tree Press Limited, which has been operating its own small desktop 3D printer since last year, though it is yet to generate any firm orders.

And at least one other Jamaican company is considering investing in the fast-developing technology. 3D printers can be used to produce a very wide range of objects - from the replication of human body parts to the creation of car parts and even a working gun.

Earlier this month, it was reported that a man in Britain successfully had his facial features reconstructed with the use of 3D printing - giving far better results than could ever have been otherwise achieved. Scientists are said to produced kidneys, ears, and even blood vessels using the technology.

An American man, Cody Wilson, successfully printed and test-fired a plastic gun. The FBI is said to have tried but failed to replicate it. And, it's now possible to print edible Oreo cookies, chocolate, pizza, and other food, some of which may not yet be edible.

The technology is itself not new. It has been around since 1984 when Charles 'Chuck' Hull invented it for the use of digital data to create real 3D objects. Since then, developments have brought down the cost of the machines so that a simple model can now cost as little as US$1,200 - though prices can go up to US$1 million or more.

Testing the Waters

Pear Tree aims to be among the companies in the forefront as the technology takes hold. The Kingston-based operation is already moving away from traditional offset printing and into digital printing and is already testing the waters for 3D printing demand in Jamaica.

"The key is to get on it, get uncomfortable, and embrace the change," said managing director of Pear Tree Press, Adam Hyde.

"You want to be on the crest of that wave and not underneath it," he said. To help the market along, Hyde hosted a 3D and digital printing showcase in New Kingston last month. Out of that forum has come increased "off-the-cuff interest", Hyde said, but still no new orders. "We've had people come in and request one-off prototypes," he said.

Meanwhile, over at the University of the West Indies, the Mona GeoInformatics Institute (MGI) is also planning to get in on the 3D revolution. MGI is "actively investigating acquisition of desktop unit", said Michael Evelyn, business development consultant at MGI. "New units on the market are smaller and quite affordable," he said. "It is the commercial units that are still at prohibitive costs."

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