3-D printing seems limitless. You dream it, you build it. But mostly, 3-D printing is only good for making inert plastic shapes. What if you want to build whole, blinking, glowing, communicating gadgets?
The Othermill, by Otherfab, is a desktop mill that wants to do for circuit boards what the MakerBot has done for physical objects. Namely, the mill could enable you to create highly accurate, totally custom electronic guts to fit inside the unique spaces of bespoke gadgetry.
“Most boards are standard sizes and relatively large, they can be difficult to work into small objects or wearable electronics,” explains Otherfab’s Martine Neider. “These small boards are particularly good for wearables, as hiding the boards can be difficult.”
Truth be told, most any electronic project the average person would call “polished” requires a bit of custom circuitry, but wearables really do up the ante for circuit boards that can think beyond the traditional rectangle. Any electronic that lives on your body needs to acknowledge your fleshy curves, and that’s an idea that the industry is still coming to terms with today. Even for mega corporations, constructing wearables becomes a major undertaking. Nike essentially invented curved batteries for their Nike+ Fuelband. And Jawbone learned the hard way that underestimating the unique design concerns around the human body can be incredibly costly.
Othermill is technically a Kickstarter project that’s still in development. Even more than a 3-D printer, it requires a strong understanding of CAD and engineering. And the preorder will currently run you a bit over $1,000. But all of this said, for those with the means, Othermill could be another step in the democratization of designing (and maybe even low-scale manufacturing?) elaborate goods. You know, until the average 3-D printer becomes so advanced that it can juggle every major material in every configuration at once.