Why shop the racks when you can just hit ‘print’?

Molly Wood Jun 10, 2011
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Why shop the racks when you can just hit ‘print’?

Molly Wood Jun 10, 2011
HTML EMBED:
COPY

We talk to Jenna Fizel, the co-founder of Continuum, the Cambridge, Mass.-based company that makes the N12.

Her business works like this: Customers go online and fill out what size they need for a top and a bottom. When Continuum gets the order, they fill it using a 3D printer they rent time on. A big raw blob of nylon is fed into the printer along with a pattern for exactly what they want printed.

From there, the printer uses a process called laser centering to strategically burn parts of the nylon in order to form the suit. She admits that the feel of the fabric is a little different from what one might be used to in clothing, but she says it’s still comfortable and wears well in the pool.

It’s easy to daydream about the possibilities of 3D printing. We’ve been hearing about people working on processes for building human organs. And someone printed out a bicycle recently. If we could start printing everything we needed instead of manufacturing it somewhere, how amazingly convenient would that be?

But hold your horses. Melba Kurman is a technology consultant and runs the company Triple Helix Innovation. She says there are obstacles to this amazing future. First, there’s the cost. The N12 bikini costs several hundred dollars, the printers are expensive and we’re many years off from having these machines in our own homes. Then there’s the public acceptance of this. Does the public have enough appetite for this capability to drive the technology into every day use?

Curiously, Kurman says in cases like this (she points to personal computers as an example), it’s usually not the technology that’s the stumbling block to widespread adoption. It’s the price point and the people.

Also on this program, the audaciously named World’s Most Exclusive Website only allows celebrities to gaze upon its content. We talk to our pal, the very famous comedian Paul F. Tompkins, about what he and his fellow celebrities should be able to see there.

And by the way, The World’s Most Exclusive Website isn’t so exclusive anymore. It’s been hacked and the pictures are here.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.