More Than 3Dimensions

WrenchOwnership is the subject of “On the Media’s” recent broadcast from WNYC, and the show’s producers talked to a variety of voices about the ever-shifting tensions between intellectual property rights and disruptive technologies.  One segment featured a conversation with Chris Anderson, CEO of 3D Robotics, and the theme was a familiar one — the inevitable disruption of manufacturing by 3D printing technology coupled with a preemptive criticism of federal regulation that would seek to mitigate said disruption as a protectionist move among traditional manufacturers.  Before this technology is anywhere near wide distribution, its proponents are already anticipating the kind of legal constraints that might naturally ensue, and they’re getting their message out early — namely that 3D printing is the next revolution in a DIY, permission-free lifestyle, and it will be great for all of us if lawmakers don’t mess it up.  But to what extent is this conversation purely academic?  In fact, host Bob Garfield’s example of printing a wrench is itself and indication as to why 3D printing may not be quite so universally disruptive, or at least not in the way many proponents assume.

Start with the premise that I bet I’m not the only one who has gone through at least a dozen or so ink jet printers in my life so far, and we all know why.  Because the printers are made to retail pretty cheaply in order to lock us into buying toner cartridges that are still quite expensive.  Over twenty years of desktop printing, and the price of a black toner cartridge is still $30 to $40 at Staples.

So now, it’s the future, and I have my 3D printer, which had to retail for maybe $500 or less in order to achieve market penetration; and I’m ready to print myself a new crescent wrench, something that has already been done by various printer advocates and entrepreneurs.  If black toner is $30, how much will it cost for, I don’t know, 30oz of whatever MagicGoo has been invented to enable printing a wrench that has enough structural integrity to truly fulfill its purpose (i.e. not break)? It’s going to have to be really cheap and really good (two things that often don’t coincide) in order to compete with the steel-alloy, nickel-plated Craftsman I can buy for about $30 and comes with a lifetime guarantee.  And of course my 3D printer better be a lot more reliable than my 2D printers have been because I’m sure many of us have lost whole days fighting with these delicate, cantankerous beasts, which is right around the time we give up and buy a new one.  Meanwhile, I’ve got bolts on the kids’ swing set that remain unbolted because my printer jammed half-way through making my stupid wrench, and my wife is telling me I’m an idiot for not going to the hardware store two hours ago. So, a lot more than downloading software and owning a printer has to align for this entire prospect to be superior to the current wrench acquisition paradigm that is neither cumbersome nor cost-prohibitive.  And that’s just a wrench.

Take something a little more complicated but still low-tech like a brake caliper, which has several components and retails for my car for about $60. In its present form, the caliper (like so many products) represents mining, petroleum production, rubber harvesting, commodities markets, international trade, shipping (which is protected by the US Navy), machining, assembly,  testing, and regulatory safety standards. And still, the part is only twenty dollars more than a black toner cartridge. But as this is a moving part complete with spring, I can’t just build it as one piece out of nothing but MagicGoo. Hence, are we envisioning a future in which individual consumers have affordable access to raw materials like copper, metal alloys, rubber, etc. all in some form that can be extruded through the 3D printer?  If so, that’s a pretty massive shift in the global supply chain; but even if the day comes when I can precision-print each component, I still have to assemble the caliper by hand (presumably with tools I’ve also printed), which brings us to another matter. . . . Guess what none of us has anymore — auto insurance.  Car parts are just one example of products that come with a liability chain, and I’m betting there isn’t going to be an underwriter willing to insure drivers who make and assemble their own parts.  By contrast the calipers on all our cars have a supply chain that can be traced, which provides a) relative assurance in reliability; b) absolves us consumers of personal liability; and c) provides insight into systemic problems when something does fail.

Just glancing across my rather cluttered desk at the moment, I recognize products that contain gold, silver, copper, silicone, steel, aluminum, rubber, and cotton, all assembled in very specific combinations either by hand or by robot.  In fact, the complexity of systems that put these things at my fingertips belies their affordability. Hence, my immediate instinct is that many of these preemptive policy statements by 3D printing champions make for very interesting conversation and TED Talks, but still belong in the realm of the academic.  A holistic contemplation of 3D printer disruption, taking into account what a pain in the ass common ink printers have been so far, shows it will take a lot more than building an object that looks like a product for the thing to actually be that product.

Technologists and inventors are supposed to dream big; it’s part of their job description. And the prospect of 3D printing to produce new products or new methods of certain types of production in the arts, in food, even potentially in housing, are very intriguing, but to proclaim imminent disruption across the entire manufacturing sector seems a tad premature. And the policy messages start to sound a little like people arguing for revised traffic laws in anticipation of that day we all have jet packs. All that said, I’d be very eager to use a 3D printer to print out new 2D printers and especially those damnable toner cartridges.

© 2013, David Newhoff. All rights reserved.

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38 comments

  • If you are think about 3D printing in terms copying a single item then you are missing the point. The item that is 3D printed can be used as a pattern for making a mold from which multiple items are created. We’ve been writing software for taking 3D designs and turning them into manufacturable objects using 3D printing to create molds for years. But if you want to see a ‘one off’ how about this
    http://www.factum-arte.com/eng/conservacion/barron/Default.asp

    • I’m talking about proclamations of disruption to manufacturing on a mass scale a la the statements made by Anderson in the cited NPR interview. There are plenty of applications for 3D and plenty more to come I’m sure. That’s not what the post is about.

      • Did you see what was reproduced in the link?

        The academics might be chattering about little plastic one off bits, but that isn’t what the issues are about at all.

        Technology has reached a stage where any surface can be reproduced and a digital model created. From the model 3D printing can create a die injection mold from which the object can be mass produced. IOW that which comes out of the 3D printer can be considered a prototype and just one stage of a mass production system. In fact these 3D printers used to be called Rapid Prototype machines.

        Today critical parts of aircraft are being made from titanium via 3D printing. For obvious reasons this link deals with jewellery rather than jet engines, but it describes that process used.
        http://i.materialise.com/materials/titanium

      • Which makes total sense and is an improvement to existing manufacturing processes that use molds, etc. That’s not what Anderson was talking about, though. He was talking about a future in which Joe amateur is printing finished products at home.

      • There is no reason why that can’t happen, technology is moving to make deskill many complex manufacturing jobs. There is no reason why the design model can’t come complete with manufacturing instructions.

        As for it becoming a main stream thing, given economies of scale it will be more expensive than traditional supply, after all the transportation costs of small items is insignificant in relation to material and design costs.

        What you may get is outlets that provide customization, For example I bought a gemstone and had it fitted into a ring. Picked a design of ring added some personalisation, and a RP of the ring was made in resin, made slight modifications, and another RP was made for an exact fit of the gemstone. Then the RP was used to form the mold for casting the ring. Whole process took two days. There is no reason why something similar can’t be provided by high street jewellers.

      • As I indicated in the post, I think we’ll see new lines of business emerge and new ways of doing certain things like your jewelry example. This is not the same thing as putting the manufacture of hundreds of common items in the hands of a large segment of consumers. The post is really about tempering some of this exuberance with some basic economics to recognize that it will take more than access to design and a 3D printer to make some of these somewhat whimsical ideas practical. The wrench is exemplary of hundreds of products on which we rely and for which there may be no economic incentive to shift from our current retail paradigm to a DIY paradigm. Hence, let’s hear about the cool new stuff that can be done with these printers and less about how manufacturing is over and that we’d better prepare policy along those lines.

      • Well it will always be niche. But I did have someone a few weeks back ask me if it was possible to 3D print Warhammer type figures. Not the ones by WH but self designed ones. Given that purchasing an army of a 200 or more figures would be several $100 it would appear that an alternative system could be a hobbyist thing. But I like you are sceptical that these would be anything like as useful as an ordinary printer. But who knows. My dentist can 3D print crowns. So I think you’ll get a lot of applications where highstreet shops can provide customisation of objects using RP machines.

        The problems are going to surround copying of other people’s designs and products. Actually that is a problem now as the digital data files are leaking out of production facilities into counterfeit production lines. Its the build quality that is screwed there otherwise in many cases you’d be hard put to tell the difference.

      • Ha! My eldest son used to paint those things, and yes they were/are damned expensive. So, assuming the 3D printer could make Warhammer figures for less than $2/unit, then indeed we’re looking at a threat to the copyrights, and the designs will be easily and freely accessible. But I also think Warhammer may have a lot of ways (not to sound like Masnick) to actually embrace this phenomenon because it will likely be one segment of its customers, but not all. A portion will still buy stuff the old fashioned way, a portion will support the brand by paying to download the official designs from the company, and a portion will pirate everything. But it won’t, I suspect, be as casual as something like downloading a song from a torrent site. Serious collectors will still need to buy paints and other modeling supplies, and there is still something fun about going to the retailers, if you’re into those things.

      • Warhammer will be fine. There have always been cheaper alternatives to the official figures around. For that matter, it’s perfectly possible to play Warhammer with a rulebook and some cardboard. (We used to do that when I was a kid).

        But that’s never really been a threat to Games Workshop’s bottom line for the following reasons.
        1. There’s a social kudos for using the official figures, among Warhammer players.
        2. A lot of Warhammer games and almost all the official tournaments are run by Games Workshop directly. So if kids want to play in those (which most of them seem to) the rules state explicitly that they need the official figures.
        3. Games Workshop put a lot of effort into cultivating their customer base. Their stores have at least one gaming day a week, generally more. They run regular introductory events They have a “school league” aimed at teenagers. And they also support regional games clubs across the world. (They have a “community coordinator” to coordinate all of this).
        I’m not sure how translatable GW’s practices are across the board, they’re obviously very niche. But they’re an interesting case study. Despite all the criticisms from old school gamers, they’re one of the few undoubted business success stories from the gaming world.

      • These RP machines will be pretty much the same as the fellow that in past years had a photographic darkroom in the attic and mixed the chemicals to make developers and toners etc. Or the guy that has a milling machine in his garage, a lathe and a router for woodworking. There will be markets for jewellery and fancy bits and bobs like hinges, tap tops, switches, and no doubt stuff we haven’t thought of. But it will be unlikely that you’ll have one of these machines as a general purpose thing that saves one from getting something in the post, or trip down to Home Depot. Example I had a bit come out of an IKEA door hinge and the cats must have played with it (in any case I couldn’t find it). IKEA took 2 days to post out a replacement. That is an ‘inconvenience’ most won’t be prepared to spend $100 to avoid.

      • I agree. Hence not exactly the end of manufacturing as we know it.

      • Academics are woefully behind when it comes to manufacturing technology. Anyone would think they were new things. We’ve been dealing with them in various industries for well over a decade.

        The RP machines open up a number of possibilities for people to start niche businesses at a low initial cost, maybe providing a service for others much like your high street printer or digital printer does today, but they are definitely not mainstream consumer items.

      • I’m trying to find a link, but there’s a great facility in the Midwest U.S. that rents space and tools for inventors to fabricate all sorts of new products. It’s really cool. So, the opportunities for individuals with good ideas abound, but some of these more whimsical notions, I feel, belong in the realm of science fiction and belie the way technological diffusion tends to achieve real market penetration. There isn’t a single product in my house that is built to last, including “durable goods” like the washing machine. Why should I assume that my 3D printer will be any more reliable? And if it isn’t reliable up to a certain standard, then it really won’t displace the means by which I acquire most of the other products I need.

        And let’s face it, the 4Chan faction of digital futurism is mostly hoping to print girlfriends. 🙂

      • And let’s face it, the 4Chan faction of digital futurism is mostly hoping to print girlfriends.
        And giant reproductions of memes. *Shudders*
        But yeah, I think you’re calling this one right. It’s worth noting that it took the Internet decades to properly penetrate the mainstream. By the time 3D printing gets to that level, if it ever does, society’s going to be pretty different anyway. Too different to make accurate predictions. If the cyberpunks taught us anything it was that being the “brave new future” starts looking old pretty quickly.
        Where I think it may take off to an extent is in the hobbyist market. People like model train collectors are likely to swap designs. Unlike some of the other things being talked about, that kind of thing doesn’t have to be highly resilient to wear and tear. In terms of my own hobbies, I reckon I might start seeing higher quality components for print and play boardgames over the next decade. Which is cool, but hardly world-shaking.

  • This is not “theoretical” or “academic” stuff here is
    talking about. It already started. In order to ensure
    that any “illegal” physical items aren’t taken out of existence,
    The Pirate Bay has made an entire
    section detected to printable schematics
    . Why stop at
    movies, books, software, music. So are physical items
    copyrightable? Lets just make everything copyrightable. I’m
    actually quite surprised that drug manufacturers haven’t jumped on
    the bandwagon and argue that drug formulas are “creative works”
    that deserve copyright protection. They would live the 95+ years of
    protection that comes with it. So yeah, it does seem like companies
    making physical products might some day join your Copyright
    Alliance and push for more all encompassing interpretations of
    copyright to protect their business model from 3D printers. It’s
    really not academic at all, as mentioned this is already happening
    on a small scale.

    • Drugs are protected by patent, not copyright. And CA’s mission is not to expand copyright.

      • Well they should be protected by copyright, it’s simply not
        fair to the drug manufacturers. Their heirs deserve to make money
        from their work as well.

      • Sarcasm does not make a solid argument.

      • It’s sarcasm, if musicians and filmmakers get 95+ years of
        protection, I can not figure out a single valid reason why drug
        makers shouldn’t either. It’s entirely arbitrary to constantly
        extend the duration of copyright but not do the same for
        patents.

      • I’m not sure why you think there aren’t many artists and copyright advocates who would be fine with a rational conversation about amending terms. But the key is rational conversation.

      • And I assure you, there is plenty of creativity involved in
        creating a new drug. It’s something that probably fits quite well
        within the copyright system. If we are going to start expanding
        copyright to physical goods and let manufacturers thrown down DMCA
        requests, it only makes sense that it applies to physical goods
        like drugs as well, which also require significant amounts of
        investment to create.

      • David,

        I don’t see why artists would be opposed to expanding copyright to all ideas, physical goods, specific genes, mathematical equations, chemical formulations and other such intellectual property; or at the minimum expanding patent protections in the same way copyright was expanded, and allow for systems like the DMCA to conveniently take down such violations from the Internet. If I see a physical schematic that I believe is similar in form or function to something I previously Created, shouldn’t have the right to takedown all instances I believe violate my fundamental rights?

        It’s not us to judge the value of creative expression. Just as a movie or a song takes time and effort to make, so do all these other things. So it is fair that they be protected perpetually or for close to perpetually to give the Creators enough time to maximize the profit from their ideas.

        You agree right? Since this blogpost is mostly about you not liking how the subject of your blogpost is being reactionary about how physical objects are being increasing brought under the copyright system.

      • Does my post even mention copyright? I wrote about a completely different issue, and I’m not sure why you want to get into the patent, drug, creative works thing in this context, other than to provoke a reaction that is both off point and not something I have time for. As for your “compromise,” you and I aren’t going to be the ones negotiating new terms, but if we were, then no, three years is ridiculous; you shouldn’t presume to know how all movies make their money back; and copyright isn’t just about recouping money.

        As a side note, please DO NOT spend our tax dollars digitizing the complete works of the LOC. Anyone can send something there, which means there’s a ton of crap, and I don’t want to pay federal employees to do that job. If you want to read an endless well of bad work, I think we’re in no danger of running out on the Internet already.

      • Anyway, lets start with a compromise.

        This is basically where I feel copyright should be in this day and age:

        – A maximum copyright term of three years. Plenty of movies make back their investment in three years, so I don’t see how this wouldn’t be workable.
        – Other things include not allowing statutory damage rulings, and limiting the amount of punitive damages in the case of non-commercial or personal/small-scale infringement. No more single mothers being being in debt for record companies for $2 million dollars.
        – Increasing fair use to cover non-commercial derivative works, ie. remixes of copyrighted works not made for profit.
        – Digitize all the works of the Library of Congress and make them available to everyone, on the Internet, on the day the three-year copyright term ends.

      • Well the issue he’s talking about is copyright mostly. As in, abuse copyright is the current greatest threat to the advancement of 3D printing.

        It’s unlikely that Congress would come up with a law to ban 3D printing outright, but that manufacturers can (and already do) use copyright in an effort to slow down the advancement of 3D printing. It also does some weird notions to the idea of copyright as a whole, the meme “MPAA: You wouldn’t download a car. Pirates: I would download a car if I could!!” becomes closer to reality.

        So we see the copyright issue and it’s role potentially expanding in the future to cover things that typically aren’t litigated through this system as a war to preserve the business model of manufacturers.

        Generally this is why both sides of the copyright issue tend to be so interested in 3D printing policy issues. It’s not a strange coincidence.

        Regardless I read your blogpost twice and I think you are underestimating 3D printing’s current status. You can buy a 3D printer for ~$500 these days and there are tens of thousands of things you can print, some of which are customizable (via build-in parameters to the schematic). And there are 3D printers eg. from MakerBot can print with multiple materials at the same time and are within reasonable costs.

        We are still far from printing entire cars, but probably not as far as you think. The technology is already pretty much there, it’s another story to make it something individual people can buy. But history shows that it’s not impossible for something (eg. a computer) to move from commercial world to the personal world.

        Regardless, it’s worth preparing for the inevitable policy issues that ALREADY get in the way of 3D printing today, and will continue to be a problem in the future. It’s the future battleground in the “IP wars” for sure.

      • @ M I’m probably more sympathetic to at least some of your
        arguments then anyone on here. But some of what you’re calling for
        is such a radical overhaul of copyright laws that it isn’t a
        “compromise” in any meaningful sense. That’s fine, but let’s not
        pretend otherwise. To take your proposals in turn. A
        maximum copyright term of three years. Plenty of movies make back
        their investment in three years, so I don’t see how this wouldn’t
        be workable.
        No, for several reasons. Firstly, I’d need
        to see your data for that, in enough detail that I can
        differentiate between Hollywood movies and independent films. I’d
        also need some point of comparison for other art forms. Books,
        music etc. Apart from that, still no. Because what you’re proposing
        is that, after three years, advertising agencies etc. can swoop in
        and commercially exploit a property. If monetisation is taking
        place, artists should be seeing some of that. There’s also an
        argument that they should have control over when that happens. Do
        we really want a situation where Crass can be used to sell
        sweatshop products, because that’s what you’re proposing. My
        instinct currently is that artists should keep control of their
        work, certainly for commercial purposes, during their life. But I
        don’t see much justification for extending it beyond that. I’m open
        to persuasion either way on that one though. Other things
        include not allowing statutory damage rulings, and limiting the
        amount of punitive damages in the case of non-commercial or
        personal/small-scale infringement.
        Tentatively yes. For
        non-commercial infringement anyway; I’m much less convinced by the
        argument that commercial copyright infringement is a matter of
        scale. But, overall, non-commercial infringement should be on the
        level of a traffic violation in terms of punishment. Be aware
        though, for that to work, you’re going to need streamlining of
        claims and a increase in use of the small claims court. That will
        likely lead to more claims, not less. But I don’t see that as an
        problem. Increasing fair use to cover non-commercial
        derivative works, ie. remixes of copyrighted works not made for
        profit.
        Mostly yes, but the devil is in the details.
        Non-commercial needs to mean just that; no advertising, no
        uploading fees, absolutely nothing that monetises the process. So
        there is not currently a filesharing site that qualifies. There’s
        also the question of what constitutes a “remix”. I’d say the end
        result needs to be genuinely transformative; lip syncing a song
        with your favourite anime video doesn’t qualify. I don’t have much
        of an opinion on the Library of Congress proposal as it’s not my
        taxes that would be paying for it. I’d add a proposal of my own.
        Use it or lose it. If a piece of art has not been put on general
        release for five years, copyright automatically reverts to the
        performer and/or creator, with no compensation. This gets away from
        the current situation where masters are sitting unused in record
        label vaults. Thankfully, the EU are slowly moving towards this
        position, although nowhere near as radically as I’d like.

      • Yeah I’m not under any illusion that my compromise will be implemented.

        But if you make copyright last 1000 years or 15 minutes, it makes no real difference in the real world. You can get content illegally often quicker than you can get it legally. That’s why I called it a “compromise”, because realistically I can’t see any way copyright can be made workable at all in the world we have today, so it’s not between the copyright we have in the books, it’s between defacto no copyright in most cases and some theoretical copyright with three years of real enforcement. Thus I feel that my compromise might even be a real improvement overall, if it could actually be enforced! 🙂

        Or maybe in the future we’ll just go to back to how everything was in the good old days when people browsed CDs at record stores and copyright will no longer be something people even care about. At least that’s what some people want [me] to believe.

        The LoC already already works to digitalize their inventory. Digital preservation is a big part of their mission, although they can only offer web access to public domain content online for copyright reasons. The public domain stuff is available from their website, and also decorate the pages of many-a Wikipedia article (images, quotes, etc.). The non-PD work they will allow access only if you are physically in the library (even if it’s digital!), which is quite inconvenient to say the least.

        Imagine if all the works of the LoC were such that you didn’t need a plane ticket or put in a request and wait hours or even days to get a response. They would just be online, downloadable by all to their reading and playback devices instantly. I’d personally like that.

      • I know the LoC does this; I was mostly joking.

        I honestly believe we stand a chance of seeing a trend away from piracy in the form of a social or cultural choice among users. At the same time, I believe it is both possible and reasonable to indict mass infringers, who are in fact committing a real crime. The former of these two, of course, is the more important. At a certain point, it comes down to basic respect for the author of the work you want to experience. If that respect is in fact a dead issue, then we’ll see what happens to professional, creative works and creative works in general. And if that respect is dead, you’re right that it doesn’t matter how long copyright terms are. If society tears down copyright as an institution, then that’s what the law will (or won’t) be. But I think it’ll be a sad day.

  • there is a major difference between patents and copyrights: Patents pay off sooner than copyrights; patent holders charge more at the beginning, while copyrights are in for the long haul. They’re completely different business models.

    • It can cost over a billion dollars to create a new drug, and much more liability is involved. I can’t think of any other creative work that requires a bigger upfront investment.

      Thus it makes the most sense that drug companies should have the most time to recoup their investment. Generic drug companies are simply stealing the hard work of others that they had no had in developing.

      Plus drug makers have children too and it’s only fair that the fruits of labor get passed down to their children and their children’s children as well.

    • Just like music and movies, a heart medication that is still used 90 years from should still make money for its Creator. Anything else is simply unfair and not doing justice to the rights of the Creator of the drug and the hard work that he spent creating the drug.

      • Satire is not your strong suit.

        Again, the value of a drug is almost immediate. With rare exceptions like Aspirin being repurposed as a heart drug, there are no equivalents of a “sleeper” drug.

        Why are you so bitter towards creators?

      • I’m not being sarcastic, I think it’s genuinely unfair that Drug Creatives only get 20 years when everyone else gets probably infinite years to make a return on investment. The commercial lifetime of many drugs last more than 20 years, otherwise there wouldn’t be a generic in the first place.

        Pfizer was really, really hurt, when their Lipotor patent expired. Why is that fair? You are talking about $95 billion of dollars of lost revenue potentially, if drugs had a fair 95 years to be monetized. With less money made, Pfizer doesn’t have as much money to research new drugs. This is serious: less money Pfizer can use to cure cancer maybe.

        So you tell me monkey, why are you so bitter against creators who actually dedicate their existence to living the lives of millions of people worldwide? Why should their work be stolen by opportunist generics producers? Shouldn’t they be paid for their work and not exploited?

      • I’d have to say that most pharma CEOs would agree with you on the timeframe for generic, but you are playing fast and loose here to support your own desire to compare copyright and patents. The simple fact is they are not the same thing. As a side note, having worked for just about every major pharma out there, my view is that they are not in any way “hurting,” and statins probably make one of the best examples of all. Lipitor and other statins have enjoyed the dysfunction in our healthcare system and overall obesity trends to the tune of billions for drugs that ought have been worth millions. The number of otherwise healthy, non-obese patients who need statins is outweighed (no pun intended) by the number of patients who receive these drugs because they don’t want to diet and exercise. Moreover, I’m pretty intimate with the means by which pharmas do their marketing and sales, and while each of those people represents a job, in many many cases it’s a job selling something where the need is questionable. And as we’re talking about health, the whole industry can’t be compared to entertainment media.

  • “M” comes to the rescue to derail yet another conversation…

    Maybe the reason you’re so upset and offended by things like copyrights and patents is that you are so utterly confused as to what each actually are. Spend a little less time talking to Mike Masnick and a little more time educating yourself about what these things actually are, and the REASONs for them to exist in the first place, and you might need less meds…

  • Your comparison with the 2D printer seems a bit spurious. If you have so much trouble with your printer why don’t you just go to Kinkos instead? Or some other place to print instead of having one at home? Let’s be honest it probably is a lot cheaper to not own one at all and just head to the local library where it costs like .10 a page (some it is even free).

    I think this is where you get tripped up. Yes, printing is a pain and not cheap overall but it is so much more convenient to click print and have it in a few hours than actually leave the house. Think about all the people who order online. It takes days for it to ship to them yet they seem okay with that because they don’t need to leave the house to buy it. Having some metal around or plastic in the off chance you see something you’d like to print out doesn’t seem too far fetched.

    I do agree with your overall conclusions though when it comes to printing anything. 3D printing isn’t going to destroy the economy or even stop us from having to buy from stores. People don’t want to have toxic materials in their home in the off chance they wish to print a new plasma tv. Most likely the newest technology is going to need highly specialized manufacturing processes to make them work right. Industrial printing will ALWAYS be ahead of the innovation curve compared to home printing due to the fact that those companies will be able to afford to spend the large amount of money innovating on capital goods. Cheap china made goods will be printed at home (think dollar store stuff) while the expensive high tech goods will still need to be done in highly precise manufacturing processes.

    PS: Some antique car owners actually use 3D metal printers to print their parts since those parts don’t really exist anymore. I think Jay Leno even has video of him using it to print parts for his cars if you want to check it out. Not exactly home use yet but probably could be one day.

    • I was in no way trying to imply that 3D printing will be a fad or in anyway useless; and my comments about 2D printing are somewhat tongue-in-cheek.

  • Having previously worked in manufacturing, i can say without doubt that a lot of things that people would ‘think’ you could just print, takes a whole lot of refinement work (after the fact) that does take the average Joe’s skill to task. Maybe working on aircraft parts is different than cheap plastic dollar store crap, but if people think most complex things would be plug-n-play*, they’ve got another thing coming. (*or rather ‘print-n-plug’?) lol

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