WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — The 3-D printing craze has reached Northern Manhattan, as Washington Heights' first 3-D printing shop opened its doors on Saturday.
3D Heights, located at 4084 Broadway near West 172nd Street, offers printing and 3-D scanning services, computers loaded with 3-D design software and monthly memberships allowing unlimited access to the equipment. Individual memberships cost $700 a month or $7,600 a year, with student discounts available.
Owner Jerry Castanos offers introductory classes that will walk participants through the burgeoning technology — which uses plastic filament or compacted paper encased in rubber to create highly detailed models, toys and almost anything that inventors can imagine.
The technology has exploded in popularity, but Castanos said it's still in its infancy and adults can have a hard time comprehending what to do with it. To help kick-start the creative process, Castanos' shop is loaded with a host of example finished products, from custom-made iPhone cases to three-dimensional terrain maps and even model houses, pipes and a set of teeth.
"This is the replicator come to life," said Castanos, a self-identified "Star Trek" fan. "It's a machine that you can plug in that will make you anything you can design."
The price of a 3-D printer ranges from $800 to $4,500, he said. The filament costs $60 to $125 a roll.
The introductory classes are aimed at helping beginners get acclimated to the technology, Castanos said. He said he's a perfect example of how quickly you can become hooked on the process, adding that he only learned about 3-D printing at the beginning of the summer.
Castanos believes the technology has the potential to transform economies, and that as technology advances, it will enable people to one day build tools, homes and even living tissue, such as artificial limbs or transplant organs.
For now, he said, customers will have to settle on designing things that can be made out of plastic filament, such as busts or model toys that can be printed on-site in a matter of hours.
"That's the future," Castanos said. "Everything will be made to order."