3-D printers preparing to transform life here

There’s a device that can create a new pair of shoes, a model for a new home and maybe soon a beating human heart. In a future with 3D printers the opportunities for application seem unlimited.

Ink Trade, a store in Tibás dedicated to additive manufacturing, sells 3D printers to interested buyers like architecture firms or precision supply companies. As a branch of the United States-based 3D Systems, the store offers a line of printers for personal, professional, or industrial use.

Featuring some of the parent company’s technology in their storefront, Ink Trade representatives are able to produce models on-site to show potential clients the capability and quality made from the machines.

Esteban Soto, who works for the sales and marketing team at Ink Trade, walks through the showroom to each of the four 3D printers on display. The most expensive professional printer, the 3500 HD Max, is currently making a prototype part for an automotive company contracted through General Motors.

According to Soto, the power that these printers can give to companies can revolutionize manufacturing through a host of industries.

“We are thinking that these machines are going to change production,” he said. “You can cut out the system of waiting and make it all in-house.”

Ink Trade’s most commonly used printer is the ProJet 460 Plus. Advertised as the world’s most affordable professional color 3D printer, the device uses gypsum to create full, sturdy prints.

The four-foot tall printer has been used by influential American companies like Nike, which is experimenting with 3D print production. The 460 Plus not only works with full color, but offers two million variations, Soto said.

Ink Trade also offers printing services to specialty clients who can’t yet purchase the devices. Though the process seems intimidating, Soto insisted once someone has the computer file all it takes is a click of a button and a few hours in wait time.

“Even if the file is complicated, the printers don’t have problems making the model,” he said.

On the shelves are different models and tools made from the printers. There are creations, as simple as a plastic wrench or a toy rocket, next to more sophisticated ones like a scaled model building and a plastic larynx.

According to a study done for Science Direct, the technology has gained heavy interest from those in medical fields because of its controlled and interconnected engineering of bone tissue, as well as other crucial body functions. In addition to bones, more sophisticated three-dimensional printers are capable of reconstructing copies of human organs and making customized implants.

As one of the leading companies in the international design-to-manufacturing business, 3D Systems has stores all across Central America and the Caribbean. Ink Trade consistently gets clients from the U.S. to China, Soto said. He added that they are currently in negotiations with Universidad Veritas in San José to possibly provide a printer for student labs.

The high-tech professional printers in the store range in price from $25,000 to $100,000. Soto claimed that the advantage offered to Ink Trade’s potential clients comes inherently with their location. If local or international dealers want to sustain a project or make an insured purchase in Costa Rica, they can do so knowing that Ink Trade can help with any possible problems.

Ink Trade and 3D Systems sell many personal printers for home or office use. The desk-sized printers that cost around $1,000 offer quick solutions for anyone interested in manufacturing on their own.

By Michael Krumholtz
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff


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