Inexpensive 3D Printing
For those of you that have been wondering how can we get even more use out of digital models, let me introduce you to inexpensive 3d printing. Makerbot has developed a kit for the construction of a 3d cnc machine that features a polymer melting head and plastic feeder, or a 3d plastic printer for under $1,000. This pretty much allows you to print anything with in the printer size constraints (4x4x6 inches) in 3d and we could easily print 3d models of our projects.
The software and method of preparing a 3d model file is relatively simple by saving as an .stl file and then translating in to Gcode. I used Gcode at MIT when I (and other members of a team) made a model for an injection molding machine (see the yo-yo on my desk). The size of the objects are limited to 4x4x6 by the kit but the printer could be modified to handle larger objects. The printer and software accordingly is all open source, so if you wanted to build all the pieces instead of buying the kit it is possible.
Below is a link to a video of someone printing the statue of liberty.
The kits from MakerBot are currently sold out, they had a booth at the CES this week and people like me who drool over things like this must have bought them all up, but if anyone else is interested in buying/sharing a kit in the future let me know.