3D printing revolution in Stafford

There’s a revolution underway -- a quiet one, but a revolution nevertheless. 3D printers are humming away in a laboratory at Houston Community College in Stafford. Instead of needing an engineer, machinists and carpenters to invent the next widget, you just need one of these, explains Roland Fields.

“This is the future," says Fields. "This really is the future. This isn't going to be in your house every day, but this is the future of design process and the future of what kids will see.” He also says the low end printers that use low grade plastic are down to about 700 bucks. The ones that can print using metals, especially precious ones can run you about $500,000. The cost of the finished product depends on what material you use. He says for the most part, these have limited and specific usefulness.

“Not really production piece for every day, but for prototyping. Ideas, teaching.”  adds Fields.

These printers and machine tools are in a small laboratory, but not for long.                        

Houston Community College is building a 57,000 square foot  facility called a Makerspace on the other side of campus. There will be more machine tools and yes, more printers. There will also be another element -- you.

“Community members can bring in their ideas," says Frederick Heard, HCC director of the Center for Excellence in Advanced Manufacturing. "If they can dream it we can print it. We can help them with adjustments to their programs. To find the finished product. We're here for the community.” 

Heard also says the staff still has some details to work out like how much to charge for materials and how to balance the time between the public and registered students but everyone from artists to engineers will be welcome.

“It's so fun because it's almost science fiction. It's really cool.” says Fields.