Hobbyist Technologies and R&D
Once new technology has been established it rarely stays exactly as it is. There is always room for improvement to
get better results(hobbyist technologies). Oftentimes technologies make advancements that seem to jump forward in leaps and bounds. The average cell phone, today, is more powerful of a computer than the computers that were used to send astronauts and their craft into space during the Space Race of the 1960s. If you could go back in time to when cell phones first came out (back when they were larger than bricks) and tell people what cell phones would become, they would probably look at you like you had grown a second head or were speaking in tongues. While all these new advances in technology are neat, they can be difficult (and expensive) to keep up with. Even if you cannot afford all of these new developments to hobbyist technologies, it is still good to keep abreast of them. For many hobbyists out there that means keeping current with CNC machines, 3D printers and quadcopters.
Keeping up with CNC machines as a whole can be difficult; the many different types of CNC machines out there make doing so hard when you do not have a lot of spare time. Most hobbyists focus mainly, or solely, on keeping up with whatever type of machine they personally work with. One example of new CNC-related technology is the 5axismaker (http://5axismaker.com/), the first CNC machine designed for hobbyists that features 5 axes. It is not the cheapest machine out there, but for an at-home 5-axis machine it is very much worth it. This machine is one of the many CNC machine projects that got its breath of life from Kickstarter. More on the software side of things there is AutoScan (http://perceptron.com/products/collaborative-gauge/), made by Perceptron. This manually controlled robot arm is designed to take laser scans of objects used for making 3D models in CAD/CAM software.
3D printing has received a lot of media attention in the last several years. That attention has spilled over in the public and private sectors, with a large amount of individuals and companies conducting research to further advance the technology. Medically there are many potential applications for 3D printing. Custom components needed for operations (stints, casts, etc.) can be customized for each patient instead of using generic models. For example, in June 2015 a 32 year old Australian man was given the ability to chew food again when a new titanium jaw was 3D printed just for him. Other items that could be used on the human body, such as prosthetics (and someday, perhaps even robotic prosthetics) can be used to a degree now as well, but full functionality of such devices requires further research.
Quadcopters have seen a lot of use by hobbyists in recent years, primarily replacing older aircraft used for hobbies such as RC (remote controlled) helicopters. While the attention to UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) technology has resulted in quadcopters getting more attention in the public eye, they are not quite as developed as many other technologies used for hobbies. Primarily, quadcopters are currently used to take pictures and/or videos from the sky or just for fun. In the future they may be able to do much more. A major future use quadcopters will likely have is the ability to conduct surveillance in areas that are too dangerous for people to enter haphazardly during search and rescue operations. They will also likely be used to for package delivery services, such as Amazon Prime Air. Currently there are many legal issues regarding quadcopters and their use of airspace, in addition to privacy concerns since quadcopters are effectively cameras that can fly.r