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 Post subject: 3D printing: Gimmick, revolution or spooks' nightmare?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2013 10:54 am 
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There is a interesting (if a little "dry") article here about 3D printing.

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 Post subject: Re: 3D printing: Gimmick, revolution or spooks' nightmare?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2013 11:20 am 
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Quote:
layer upon layer of hype.


Seriously? :P


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 Post subject: Re: 3D printing: Gimmick, revolution or spooks' nightmare?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2013 11:55 am 
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3D printing will succeed because it's an enabling technology like the telephone, computer, and Internet all enabled communication and creativity to flourish. Bazaar technologies that enable the masses to do something or say something or make something are profoundly more impactful than cathedral technologies.

Tech predictions are notoriously poor. On the other extreme you have folks like Ray Kurzweil that overestimate exponential growth and the enablement that new technologies bring.

“The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.”

"Everything that can be Invented has been Invented."

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."

“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”

“Machines will be capable, within twenty years, of doing any work a man can do”

"There is practically no chance communications space satellites will be used to provide better telephone, telegraph, television or radio service inside the United States."

"I predict the Internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse."

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 Post subject: Re: 3D printing: Gimmick, revolution or spooks' nightmare?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2013 4:09 pm 
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bmenrigh wrote:
3D printing will succeed because it's an enabling technology like the telephone, computer, and Internet all enabled communication and creativity to flourish. Bazaar technologies that enable the masses to do something or say something or make something are profoundly more impactful than cathedral technologies.

This. I think you are spot on. Enabling technologies empower people, and as such 3D printing will democratise creative 3D modeling and prototyping, just as the internet has democratised information sharing and access. And a combination of the two (internet and 3D printing) is even more empowering to people, as they can design, create and share 3D designs with each other, creating a new market place for individuals to create, share, buy and sell real things. In fact this is very similar to creating, buying and selling apps for the iPhone, which is now a multi-billion dollar market/industry, and bigger than the iPhone itself!

In my opinion, what is really required now is some very cheap, widely available, very intuitive and easy to use 3D modeling software, which anyone can pick up and use without any training. Maybe even released as an iPhone app. Then I promise, 3D printing will really take off, but now the biggest barrier is the cost and expertise required to use 3D modeling software, and so the volumes of 3D printing are low and the prices are too high for most people. The cost of 3D printing won't come down until the volumes go up, but that won't happen until the software to create good models can be used by anyone on the street (perhaps even literally), and at low cost.

I also think automatic 3D printing kiosks ("Thing-O-matics") would make a huge difference: plug your USB key into your nearest kiosk and pick up your printed product a few minutes later, like a traditional photo booth. Once people see real tangible stuff coming out before their eyes in their local towns and villages, the whole thing will take off and generate more buzz and excitement among the masses. Right now it's not thought of as something that is tangible and accessible to the masses, but more like a fringe abstract academic interest for nerdy geeks like us! :lol:

Computers, text messages, e-mails, etc. all used to be complex, elusive things that only nerdy geeks had access to and knew how to use. But now they are everywhere, and even the dumbest idiot has a smart phone and can surf the web, send and receive text and e-mail messages. All it took were visionaries like Steve Jobs, who knew how to make great technology more accessible to non-technicians.

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 Post subject: Re: 3D printing: Gimmick, revolution or spooks' nightmare?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2013 7:06 pm 
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This article says so many things that it's hard to disagree with it as a whole...

And overall, I agree with it :lol:

The main point is that, just like "the microwave didn't replace the rest of the kitchen", 3D printing is not going to replace the rest of manufacturing.

It's hard to image that LEGO would want to switch over entirely to 3D-printing (although a service to order custom-designed LEGO pieces would be fun), because I think it will always be less "work" to cast 2x4 bricks in molds by the thousands instead of individually printing each one. And metal parts in demanding applications probably won't be 3D printed any time soon because their manufacturing methods are critical for producing strong parts (work hardening, tempering, aging, etc).

But hopefully 3D printing continues to advance and improve those applications which can benefit from mass customization :)


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 Post subject: Re: 3D printing: Gimmick, revolution or spooks' nightmare?
PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2013 5:30 am 
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At present, 3D print technology is only viable for prototyping and making custom parts, and even then, getting something with the same quality as more traditional manufacturing techiques is prohibitively expensive or not available with current tech.

That said, I feel that it is only a matter of time before 3D print technology reaches a point where it can compete with injection molded plastic for part quality, cost, and even production speed. Other materials might take longer to reach such a point, but I am convince that we are looking at the predecessor of real-life Star Trek replicators.

Also, I would agree that Lego would probably shift custom and set-specific parts to 3D printing before they do so for their genericd bricks, if only because complex shapes are more expensive to build and rebuild molds for, but I would think it unwise for them to continue using injection molding when 3D printing reaches the point that it could produce the generic bricks at the same or lower unit cost without the need to invest in new molds every so often.

The on demand kiosks sound cool, but what I am waiting for is desktop 3D printers becoming as common a feature in home offices and family rooms as inkjet printers. As for making CAD software more accessible, FreeCAD does an excellent job on the price side of things, though I cannot say how well the complete layman could figure out how to make simple designs.

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 Post subject: Re: 3D printing: Gimmick, revolution or spooks' nightmare?
PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2013 6:01 am 
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Jeffery Mewtamer wrote:
That said, I feel that it is only a matter of time before 3D print technology reaches a point where it can compete with injection molded plastic for part quality, cost, and even production speed.

That definitely *won't* happen, given that injection moulding uses tons of pressure to force semi-molten plastic into a steel mold with multiple cavities, so that many perfect parts are formed simultaneously and as quickly as possible while the mold is cooled by flowing water. There is simply no better way to improve resolution/quality as well as speed, and even cost for large volumes: the capital cost of injection molding is high because the entire set up brings the unit cost down to almost nothing above the cost of the plastic.

And perhaps this is where the hype is, that people believe it can ever replace injection molding, roll forming, or any of the other well established high volume industrial manufacturing processes. It can't, and never will. It simply fills a current gap in capabilities to produce low volumes at reasonable unit cost and capital cost. The resolution will improve and the cost will go down over time, but it will always be for single unit or low volume manufacturing.

Similarly, the desktop printer has improved in resolution and cost has come down to almost nothing (compare current laser printers with an old dot matrix printer!), BUT it has never and will never replace the big printing presses that can churn out millions of perfectly printed books or newspapers within just 6 hours, and at little more than the cost of the paper.

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