But here in this cosmopolitan Dutch city, a company called Freedom of Creation is on the vanguard of a movement to change the way things like lamps, handbags, iPhone and iPad cases, and countless other items are designed and made.
Rather than relying on traditional manufacturing methods, the company is a leader in the nascent 3D printed consumer items industry. That means that while FOC, as it is sometimes known, has a catalog of items you can buy, all have a very high design style, all can be customized in just about any way imaginable, and all-new products take just weeks from concept to delivery instead of months or years.
The reason is that 3D printing allows retailers to make a one-off, or a set of items, from any 3D digital file. No molds are necessary. All it takes is loading the file onto a computer, and letting one of the increasingly powerful and accurate 3D printers make the item. And because a 3D printer can make just about anything that can be designed, there are very few limits as to what can be created, and sold.
For example, look at this purple lamp, which is a material color test of another lamp that Freedom of Creation sells. The detail work on it is likely far beyond what could be done with mass production, yet its price, 400 euros, is probably only a little bit higher than what a much less detailed but high-design lamp would cost.
This lamp is made from a nylon material and was made using a 3D printing process called laser-sintering, in which a high-temperature laser is used to fuse materials together.
June 20, 2011 4:00 AM PDT
Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET
| Caption by: Daniel Terdiman
Conversation powered by Livefyre