Brent Cox holds a plastic ball-bearing “printed” from the 3-D printer.                                     RoundTable photo

Three-dimensional printing is one of the newest offerings at the Technology Innovation Center, 820 Davis St., GetPrinting3D, the Dayton, Ohio-based company has been here about a year, said Chuck Happ, who owns the TIC (this one and its counterpart on Chicago Avenue). They are the regional sellers of this 3-D printing system. GetPrinting3D plans to operate as a “demonstration café,” said Marketing Director Brent Cox. “We want to have a venue where groups and businesses come in, ask questions, see the equipment and maybe get a sample from the different printers,” he said.

“We want to hook up with architects [and designers] and with college students who want to come in and learn. One thing that differentiates GetPrinting3D from others is [that] we have full-color, high-end printers,” Mr. Cox said.

Customers can rent equipment on site for even a few hours – to design a prototype that is “printed” in layers of plastic so it is three-dimensional. Some may even come in to print a design already saved on a thumb drive – “plug it into the computer and go to lunch” – said Mr. Happ.

With 3-D printing, a business “can have a prototype in three-to-five hours that they can try before they go into mass production,” said Mr. Cox.

Those who use three-dimensional printing now may be already riding the inkjet of the future. “These printers print functional objects. Some of the fuel components of jet engines can be printed,” said Mr. Cox.

Charles Happ, who owns the Incubator, added, “Anything you can buy at Home Depot, you can make here. … These will be in everybody’s kitchen in five years – for [printing] kitchen utensils and bowls.”

Mr. Happ said the company is already becoming a part of the Evanston community. At least one class from Evanston Township High School has visited the shop/demonstration café, and the company hopes to interface with the Library. And, perhaps most immediately practical: “They’re hiring,” he said. “This company has the common dilemma [of small technology companies]: ‘Do you hire a techie and teach him/her to sell or hire a salesperson and teach him/her technology?’”

Asked whether adding a fully fledged company to the Incubator indicated a change of direction for this 40-year-old technology-company nest, Mr. Happ repeated the Incubator’s given name, the Technology Innovation Center, and said, “We’ve always been in innovation more than technology.”