BROOKSIDE, Mo. - A Kansas City man says he is the first person to invent a vehicle using a 3-D printer.
Kansas City's 3-D printing super star Michael Curry said he's more than a nerd, but rather a "3-D Printing Evangelist," a term taken from the Google tech world.
"It's the people who are really excited and tell people about them," he said.
The local architect and former employee of the 3-D printing company Maker Bot, pulled part of his claim to fame out of a box-- a tire.
Curry is the maker of a fully-printed electric vehicle and claims it is the country's first.
What makes the 3-D technology so impressive is that you don't have to know how to build a car to build a 3-D version of the car. Curry said he did it with the help of the internet and the print button.
"It's as much as you can imagine you can build. That's what makes this technology so incredible," he said.
He and any other person with an idea and a 3-D file can go to places like Brookside's Hammerspace Community Workshop and turn just about anything into a physical product for a fraction of the usual price.
How much does a 3-D printer cost?
The Oni H-Bot printers, 3-D printed by Tom Newell, at Hammerspace cost around $1,000, which isn’t bad when you consider it often costs pennies to print a simple object.
Dave Dalton, owner of Hammerspace, says any substance can be used.
"You can print anything from plastic to sugar to sintered metal," he said.
3-D sounds futuristic but the technology is just a small evolutionary step from spraying toner on paper to putting down layers of something more substantial until the layers add up to an object.
Dalton says 3-D printing machines, most often, lay down molten plastic layer by layer.
"It gets melted and pushed out and the cone shaped nozzle lays down a scribbely fine line that goes back and forth until you build the object," Dalton said.
It is easy enough that it means consumers are fast becoming the creators of their products.
"It's something that's going to spit out an object on demand," Dalton said.
3-D printers have been around in the corporate manufacturing world since the 1980's but recently their use has expanded to individual consumers.
If a person needs to replace a broken piece on a bicycle or an old, out-of-date oven knob, Newell said, they can go to places like Hammerspace, create them and print it out.
A caring teenager wanted to help his 9-year-old friend from Miami County, Kan. The boy was born without all of his fingers so they printed a cool looking red, plastic prosthetic called Robohand for the child.
Currently, NASA is funding a project to turn powder into pizza for astronauts in space. Controversially, some have already printed useable, plastic guns. The U.S. military is funding skin printing projects with the hope to help injured soldiers. One doctor has even printed an ear from human cells to be used as transplant parts for patients.
At Hammerspace, they have helped an active duty soldier print a finger, of sorts.
But more often than not, it is simpler plastic objects the consumer can easily print like action figures or a vase.
Curry and Hammerspace believe 3-D printing is about to transform the world.
"It's quickly moving from nerd talk to all of us saying, ‘I don't remember not having a 3-D printer,’” Curry said.
He believes in five years, many families will have their own 3-D printers to create just about anything on demand.
You can meet Michael Curry and the people at Hammerspace at Union Station's Maker Faire, June 28 - 29.