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3D Printing, Serious and Not So, Gets Spotlight During Philly Tech Week

By Ian Bush

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- As part of Philly Tech Week, a Center City company wants to help you see yourself in another dimension.  The 3D printing shop is churning out full-color figurines of anyone who walks in the door.

"The idea is that we can take this technology and really make it accessible to anybody that can come in and stand still for a few minutes and get scanned up," says Alex Rivera (at left in photo), a 3D artist and toy designer at NRI, 10th and Chestnut Streets.

How about a 3D model of your face for $25, or a statuette for $125, ready in about a week?

Rivera notes that their 3D scanners are mobile.

"Bring it to your office, bring it to your party, bring it to your bar mitzvah, your wedding, anywhere you can think of.  Anywhere traditional photography has a place," he says.

And it's not just people.  Models of buildings are big business, too.   And Simon Indrele, a digital fabrication specialist (at right in photo) at NRI, says 3D printing is a DIYer's dream.

"You could literally come in here with your idea sketched on the back of a napkin and say, 'Hey, guys, can you make that for me?' "

And they make things for themselves, too.  Soon to emerge -- after about an hour in the 3D printer on the checkout counter -- is an iPad stand... for the checkout counter.

"We needed a stand and we didn't have one, and we honestly don't have time to get one, so why not 3D print it?" Indrele says.

He shows off some of their work for local hospitals.  There's a gear that a medical equipment manufacturer would only replace in conjunction with a much more expensive part.

"So the hospital came to us and said, 'Do you think you can produce these gears for us though 3D printing?' Obviously, we can."

He says the next big thing is bioprinting, where the medium is living tissue.

"We're talking about 3D printed livers, 3D printed ears," Indrele says. "We're all going to live forever."

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