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Three Affordable Technologies You Might Be Missing Out On

Fiona Waters

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Whether your organization's focus is on healthcare, marketing a product, or educating others, incorporating creative technology can both enhance a company's brand and make prototyping or tool design extremely accessible. Creative technology can produce personalized objects, speed up production, and transfer digital line drawings into the physical world. All organizations, even those that don't specialize in creating work with the technology described, can benefit from having access to these machines.

Automatic Die Cut Machines

Maybe you want to reward a team of employees with a small custom gift. Maybe you want to cut out your company logo in vinyl, cardboard, or even fabric so that you can easily attach it to other materials. Any way you cut it, an automatic die cut machine is an affordable way to quickly produce custom gifts or brand material. Automatic machines do the work of a crafter while still preserving the value of a personalized gift.

There are free patterns and instructions available online for a number of uses. Tree ornaments, monogrammed designs, decals, artwork, sewing patterns for simple projects, and icons or signage that might be useful in the workplace are just a few examples of what you can do with a cutting machine. If you want to make a statement that clients or employees are important to you, automatic die cut machines are perfect for the job.

The most affordable machine is the Cricut, which ranges from $180 to $400. Cricut machines connect to your computer via USB and launch their own application. It's as easy as designing a pattern in the application or simply inserting a line drawing of the company logo. Cricut machines specifically can also write and draw.

Other automatic die cut machines include the Silhouette Cameo at $440 and the Brother ScanNCut at $324.

If you don't have a program such as Illustrator or Photoshop that can save images in the .svg format that these machines use, try Inkscape.

Writing, Drawing, and Plotting Machines

Pen plotters are able to produce handwriting that looks like it belongs to a calligrapher, but they also have a wider range of uses. While many machines only function on material of a specific size that will fit into the machine, modern plotting machines can mark anything. They can be used to make markings on wood for woodworkers, to test hardware and software using a stylus, and, of course, to create handwritten notes for customers, guests, and even employees.

Besides these straightforward uses, pen plotters are also capable of creating complex art. They can convert photos to replicable line drawings with just a few clicks. If your brand relies heavily on a photograph, not only can these machines recreate the logo, they can also recreate the image.

My favorite of these machines is the AxiDraw. A mini costs $325, while the newest AxiDraw 3 is $475, with special editions costing up to $800. The AxiDraw application you need to prepare images for drawing is an extension of Inkscape.

A selection of plotting machines that perform similar jobs are the iDraw from $175 and RobotHouse products starting at $160. Sometimes lower priced plotting machines are DIY assembly, so make sure to check which type you're ordering.

Desktop 3D Printers

If you or your company are willing to commit to a more significant purchase, 3D printers are worth it, especially for those in manufacturing. They allow users to test prototypes and small scale materials or to create larger products that have multiple small parts. If you are trying to solve an engineering problem, desktop 3D printers are much more affordable and less time-consuming than professional grade 3D printers. Designers can test out their designs on the spot with a desktop printer instead of using a middleman or waiting for an excessively detailed print.

Outside of engineering or manufacturing, 3D printers are capable of designing models for educators or those giving a presentation, printing unique tools which may not be available on the market, and building items that might break during shipping or take weeks to arrive.

Three of the best 3D printers are the Formlabs series, the Ultimaker series, and the Makerbot series. These include their own software and free patterns can be found online in a .stl format.

A Makerbot can go for as low as $1,700 while a Form 3 basic package is $3,500. Buying older, refurbished versions can lower the price, though it has the same gamble as buying anything else refurbished.

Fiona F. Waters is a recent college graduate searching for opportunities that combine writing with science and technology to cover current events.

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