A new device by Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam, Germany, generates flat pack-like designs in seconds using a laser pointer and a laser cutter.
New Scientist today posted how 3D printers now make it possible for anyone to dream up and build new gadgets. However, the cost of the technology isn't the only obstacle facing would-be designers, says Patrick Baudisch.
''I own a $40,000 3D printer and a $40,000 laser cutter - both comparably cool pieces of equipment,'' says Baudisch. ''Suprisingly, the 3D printer runs once a month - the laser cutter runs several times a day.''
He also says: ''The 3D printer takes hours. With the laser cutter I can have an object in seconds -- it's insanely fast.''
With the help of his colleagues Stefanie Mueller and Pedro Lopes, Baudisch has turned his laser cutter into a device that allows anyone to quickly and precisely cut out complex designs from a sheet of plywood, using nothing more than a boxful of colourful laser pointers.
A webcam tracks the designs that the user draws onto the plywood using the laser pointers. This information then passes on to a computer, which tidies up the freehand drawing and instructs the laser cutter to burnt the design into the wood.
The computer recognises a sensor inside each of the laser pointers which allows the user to add things to the design as it develops.
''By the time my 3D printer has produced the first object, I have iterated so much that I have developed an entirely different approach to the problem - that has huge implications for the creative process,'' says Baudisch, who will present the device at the User Interface Software and Technology conference in Boston in October.