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3D Printing and the Replicator Economy

Soulskill posted about 3 years ago | from the can't-wait-for-claims-of-replicated-copyright-infringement dept.

Printer 322

An anonymous reader writes "'Tea. Earl Grey. Hot,' is a command familiar to every Trek fan as representing everyday use of replicator technology. While its use on the show is simply sci-fi wizardry, the beginnings of that technology is now making it into homes, and could spark an industrial revolution. 'New 3D printing and other so-called additive manufacturing technologies are based on methods that industries developed over the past quarter century to rapidly create prototypes of mechanical parts for testing. But as these methods become increasingly sophisticated, demand is rising to use them to manufacture finished products, not only in factories but also at a boutique, one-off level for individuals. ... Already, 3D printing has been used to make tools and artworks, custom-fitted prosthetics for amputees, components for aviation and medical instruments, solid medical models of bones and organs based on MRI scans, paper-based photovoltaic cells, and the body panels for a lightweight hybrid automobile.'"

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Where da white wimmunz at? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36949914)

My name is Nigga Tyrone and my specialty is fucking white wimmunz. Yo got any dat I can fuck? I prefers gurlfriends and wives so I cans fuck them while der peckerwood boyfriends/husbands watch and jerk their little dick.

stock up on bullets EMP don't work on them (4, Funny)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 3 years ago | (#36949916)

stock up on bullets EMP's and lasers don't work on them

Re:stock up on bullets EMP don't work on them (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36950032)

A powerful enough laser could deflect a bullet, at least enough to make its accuracy questionable.

Of course, if you have lasers that power and accurate, why not just shoot you so you never get a second shot.

Re:stock up on bullets EMP don't work on them (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36950120)

Or you could just get the Stargate reference and move along...

Re:stock up on bullets EMP don't work on them (1)

blair1q (305137) | about 3 years ago | (#36950484)

A powerful enough bullet could end a laser.

Re:stock up on bullets EMP don't work on them (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 3 years ago | (#36950582)

A powerful enough laser could end a bullet in mid-flight.

Re:stock up on bullets EMP don't work on them (1)

blair1q (305137) | about 3 years ago | (#36950750)

I have more bullets, and they cost me pennies in bulk. How many multi-kW lasers are you sporting.

Re:stock up on bullets EMP don't work on them (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36950848)

But doubling the size of the bullet, which will double the heat capacity, should be cheaper than doubling the power of the laser

Re:stock up on bullets EMP don't work on them (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | about 3 years ago | (#36950598)

But wouldn't the sharks be as dangerous as the replicators?

Re:stock up on bullets EMP don't work on them (1)

rossdee (243626) | about 3 years ago | (#36950338)

Jack O'Neill will design a weapon that can destroy them as soon as he gets overloaded with Ancient knowledge.

Last Tits! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36949934)

Boobs are a myth!

Re:Last Tits! (1)

Genda (560240) | about 3 years ago | (#36950242)

Apparently Not... :-)

Maybe if we're lucky . . . (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36949940)

. . . the post-scarcity economy will be in full swing just as unemployment hits 100%. We'll be able to print out cars instead of just living in them!

Re:Maybe if we're lucky . . . (1)

Thud457 (234763) | about 3 years ago | (#36950226)

Just as long as we don't have to endure a remake of "Americathon"!

Re:Maybe if we're lucky . . . (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36950420)

Assuming of course you have the 2000lbs of raw materials to feed into you printer. This is the fundamental difference between replicators and 3D printers that tech articles love to ignore. The replicator (seemingly) fabricated any item out of thin air (yea, there was probably some psuedoscience bullshit explaining this in a reference manual somewhere). But in real life, you're always going to need to feed in the raw materials. And it will always be more convenient to buy a car than to buy palettes of steel, plastic, rubber, copper, etc.

Re:Maybe if we're lucky . . . (3)

elrous0 (869638) | about 3 years ago | (#36950710)

I always though that replicators essentially recycled everything for raw materials (and maybe had a cache of matter stored somewhere on board in case that wasn't enough). I seem to recall scenes in TNG where crewmembers put their dirty dishes into replicators and they were de-replicated (presumably for recycling).

Won't go anywhere thanks to IP Law (3, Interesting)

hsmith (818216) | about 3 years ago | (#36949974)

3D printers have a way to go, but there already have been modeled objects that have received infringement claims. It will only get worse.

Re:Won't go anywhere thanks to IP Law (1)

somersault (912633) | about 3 years ago | (#36950000)

And then it will get better :)

Re:Won't go anywhere thanks to IP Law (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36950094)

You're an IP lawyer, I'll assume?

Re:Won't go anywhere thanks to IP Law (1)

somersault (912633) | about 3 years ago | (#36950206)

Nope - just someone looking forward to the collapse of our current IP model. They can pry my 3D printed lego set from my cold, dead 3D printed exoskeleton.

Re:Won't go anywhere thanks to IP Law (2)

TehNoobTrumpet (1836716) | about 3 years ago | (#36950154)

I can imagine PirateBay hosting torrents for 3D printer 'blueprints'.
Then those "Would you steal a car?!?1/! You shouldn't pirate videos then!" commercials to actually be logically sound.

Re:Won't go anywhere thanks to IP Law (1)

ctsupafly (1731348) | about 3 years ago | (#36950530)

The problem is & always has been that copying doesn't equate to stealing. When IP law catches up to this reasoning, we'll all be in a better place.

Re:Won't go anywhere thanks to IP Law (1)

whiteboy86 (1930018) | about 3 years ago | (#36950204)

Fortunatelly copycat dudes can't reach this tech due to the cost, a capable laser sintering machine is sold for tens of thousands of dollars.

Re:Won't go anywhere thanks to IP Law (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36950482)

you're short a couple zeros if you're referring to SLS.

Re:Won't go anywhere thanks to IP Law (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36950668)

For now...

Eventually every Dell will ship with its own Mr. Copy printer for free because it's a loss leader for the printer cartridges.

Re:Won't go anywhere thanks to IP Law (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about 3 years ago | (#36950732)

So were Plasma TV's, 10 years ago. Now the cost is what? and for a bigger model? Cool.

Re:Won't go anywhere thanks to IP Law (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36950844)

Fortunatelly copycat dudes can't reach this tech due to the cost, a capable laser sintering machine is sold for tens of thousands of dollars.

Yes, because we've never seen cheap Chinese knockoffs of anything complicated before...

"Business As Usual, During Alterations" (1)

westlake (615356) | about 3 years ago | (#36950358)

3D printers have a way to go, but there already have been modeled objects that have received infringement claims. It will only get worse.

You pay the licensing fees just as you would for anything else.

Life goes on.

Ralph Williams' "Business As Usual, During Alterations" [blogspot.com] First publication, "Astounding," July 1958.

For any non-trivial application of a replicator there will be issues.

You LEGO house needs to be structurally sound.

It needs to be fire resistant. The plastic must not off-gas toxic fumes.

All this and more has to be documented and certified in a way that will be persuasive to your local zoning board, building inspector, real estate agent, your Savings & Loan.

Re:Won't go anywhere thanks to IP Law (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 3 years ago | (#36950452)

That's a bit shrill. It's true that there will be resistance to you reproducing name brand products for free. If the technology gets there, manufacturing as an industry is going to face that change exactly as the RIAA and MPAA are, fighting it tooth and claw, and not caring about collateral damage.

Just as the RIAA and MPAA have not killed downloadable music or streaming movies, and publishers have not killed the internet as distribution for news, I doubt manufacturers are going to be able to kill 3D printers. Likely, the worst case scenario would be a mandatory registry for 3D printers, to make sure they're not being used to print out something that is copyright/patented/trademarked without paying a royalty.

Re:Won't go anywhere thanks to IP Law (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36950832)

I'm going to download and print a car.

Replicator economy or peak employment? (4, Interesting)

Compaqt (1758360) | about 3 years ago | (#36950004)

On the one hand you have the possible utopia of unlimited "free" stuff.

And on the other, the distopia of companies locking this technology up, and firing (almost all) the workers.

It would be great to believe the former. But a whole lot of people seem to be afraid of the latter.

Is there any unwavering indicator one way or the other?

Re:Replicator economy or peak employment? (4, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 3 years ago | (#36950054)

What's free about this stuff? Printers aren't free and the more complex ones that actually do something are likely to be even more expensive. The feedstocks aren't going to be free.

Unless you can conceive of an economy run on simple plastic objects with no moving parts, I don't see anything today that resembles the hallucination that is Star Trek. Or even The Diamond Age.

Re:Replicator economy or peak employment? (4, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 3 years ago | (#36950076)

Oh, and before anyone else feels the need to express the obvious, dildos will not support an entire economy. Sorry.

Re:Replicator economy or peak employment? (2)

Talderas (1212466) | about 3 years ago | (#36950122)

Well you've got to be fucked by something? Why not fuck yourself with that dildo you just printed?

Re:Replicator economy or peak employment? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36950192)

Well you've got to be fucked by something

Why?

Re:Replicator economy or peak employment? (2)

ZankerH (1401751) | about 3 years ago | (#36950322)

Whoa.
Whoa whoa.

Re:Replicator economy or peak employment? (5, Informative)

vlm (69642) | about 3 years ago | (#36950140)

Unless you can conceive of an economy run on simple plastic objects with no moving parts,

My main interest is making patterns to be sandcast in aluminum. It turns out that patternmaking is remarkably hard and painful when a pattern breaks or is lost. Of course when another is available by "press go" then its not so bad.

Also note that "simple plastic objects with no moving parts" represents probably 50% by weight or volume of the stuff at walmart and target. Entire aisles of laundry baskets, storage baskets, kitchen gadgets, housewares gadgets, all obsolete.

Re:Replicator economy or peak employment? (3, Informative)

Knuckles (8964) | about 3 years ago | (#36950298)

Also not that "no moving parts" is not even necessarily true: http://www.shapeways.com/shops/oskarpuzzles [shapeways.com]

Re:Replicator economy or peak employment? (1, Insightful)

westlake (615356) | about 3 years ago | (#36950618)

Also note that "simple plastic objects with no moving parts" represents probably 50% by weight or volume of the stuff at walmart and target. Entire aisles of laundry baskets, storage baskets, kitchen gadgets, housewares gadgets, all obsolete.

You won't be paying OEM prices for your chemical feedstocks.

Think mile-long unit trains. Fleets of container ships. Transcontinental pipelines.

Does it make sense for the high wage geek to spend hours or days at home fabricating plastic forks and spoons that sell for $1.39 a box at the dollar store?

Scavaging aluminum at 5 cents a can?

Do we ignore the problem of air, ground and water pollution when you bring an industrial process into the home?

Re:Replicator economy or peak employment? (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 3 years ago | (#36950682)

Warhammer figurines. Yay. Looking around this room, I also think of cable conduit (Exactly to length and shape of room), dog toys, replacement top covers for the radiator valves, coathangers, the plastic things that the electronics for a USB memory stick go inside... nifty. That last one for customisation purposes. Having a custom-shaped USB stick brings a little geek-cred.

Re:Replicator economy or peak employment? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36950752)

Most of what you stated is injection molded plastic. Another tremendous machine that can just run and spit out parts. Combined with 3D printer to make the die and then AL cast the mold. We are looking at the worker less, or a lot less workers, facility. Toss in some robots to move things around the facility and you are looking at fixed capital costs, the rest is consumables.

Also, Star Trek replicator was based on the science of the Transporter, half at least. Energy to matter, based on patterns in the main computer. When you make a machine thats only feed stock is electricity from a wall socket, then I would be seriously impressed/scared. This invention is what caused the utopian world in Star Trek and the federation. Since division of labor for farming, textiles, manufacturing and such was no longer needed and therefore an economy to trade the various goods was not needed, then they were able to explore the wonders that existed and do what your heart desired.

Re:Replicator economy or peak employment? (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 3 years ago | (#36950790)

Good idea. Take it further with a 3D model made of foam and that would make for some easy lost-foam casting.

Re:Replicator economy or peak employment? (4, Interesting)

Bios_Hakr (68586) | about 3 years ago | (#36950186)

It may not happen soon enough in the scale that will impact the majority of the people, but it is already happening.

Here is a link to a guy who took the plans for an old Guillows free-flight plane and converted it to a 3d printable version:

http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/thumbgallery.php?t=1455808&do=threadgallery [rcgroups.com]

Here is a link to a company that makes a "printer" for foam for simple models and prototyping:

http://www.phlatboyz.com/Phlatprinter-3-Kit_p_9.html [phlatboyz.com]

I think we are fast approaching the time when the printers will be able to print another copy of itself.

Sure, you'll need the raw material, but we are at the point now where you could "print" an Ikea furniture piece.

Re:Replicator economy or peak employment? (3, Interesting)

smelch (1988698) | about 3 years ago | (#36950392)

Makerbot prints a makerbot [thingiverse.com] .

Re:Replicator economy or peak employment? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36950556)

Actually they already have simple moving parts built into the printing model (see the crescent wrench video on youtube). How long before it becomes more than just and simple machine (in this case and inclined plane wrapped around an axle)?

Re:Replicator economy or peak employment? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36950314)

You're worried about a hobby-level "technology" that can print out ridiculously fragile 20-sided die? It's not going to change anything. It's a niche product for a niche within a niche. You're wildly extrapolating the potential of this "technology". It's a mold. That's all it is. It's not going to print out a model car, much less a real one. Relax. Physics and engineering haven't changed. You won't be printing titanium turbine blades from plastic with a 10 mil accuracy...

If you need to make a new know for a vintage 1950s black and white TV however, you're in luck.

Re:Replicator economy or peak employment? (1)

peragrin (659227) | about 3 years ago | (#36950626)

A former IBM CEO ince stated that there was only a market for 10 computers world wide.

While I agree the average person wont be buying a car and printing it out what you will find are custom "build" shops that will build you your car"custom designed for lots of plans, some certified by car company" in 48 hours.

That wont stock cars at the dealership but build them like mcdonalds's as ordered. I figure to see something like that in 30-40 years. Between complex multi tool,multi material CNC mills, and quick print plastics all you need now is the electronics manufacturing( and it is difficult).

Of course you still need raw materials, and that is where the economy will be focused still

Re:Replicator economy or peak employment? (4, Insightful)

Genda (560240) | about 3 years ago | (#36950728)

Are you kidding? Do you have any clue as to the actual number of people in America today who are out of work? [msn.com] Add to that the virtual collapse of available jobs in government and public services, well you get the picture.

Tell me that every advance in productivity, every application of robotics, every technological enhancement that makes it possible for business to make more, better, cheaper products hasn't resulted in higher wages for the Board of Directors and lower wages for the common worker in real currency. We now live in a global economy that sees human labor as a commodity, and all of it is to serve a self obsessed, self indulgent, corporate elite.

You want unwavering indicators, here are a few that might help you hone in on an answer:

  • The average income for a middle class American in adjust dollars over the last 50 years
  • The ratio of income between the average worker and CEO of all American business over the last 50 years
  • The number of patents issued to corporations per year over the last 50 years
  • The number of patent attorneys employed per year over the last 50 years
  • The number of exceptions, exclusions and abridgments to your civil rights enacted per year over last 50 years
  • The number of people in prison per year over the last 50 years
  • The number of people on food stamps, food lines, homeless and living with friends or relatives over the last 50 years

What you will see is a mass migration into poverty and population control. We are being herded into oblivion. You honestly tell me if you had a billion dollars how eager you would be to help the masses vs feathering your own nest. We've built a society of bottomless appetites, with fewer and fewer souls who can feed that hunger. Can you see any way for the common man to make out in such a world?

Let me put it another way. The greater people are responsible for the future. Until the masses hold wisdom more highly than gratification, dignity above notoriety, justice above animal revenge and compassion above dominion, we can pretty much predict how it will all turn out. We have done a spectacular job of teaching our children to be fat, stupid and ready to dance to any tune their corporate masters may choose to play. What indicators are you looking at?

Cars (2)

Baloroth (2370816) | about 3 years ago | (#36950018)

So, when can I download my free car from TPB?

You know what it would produce (4, Funny)

DanTheStone (1212500) | about 3 years ago | (#36950022)

And the 3D printer would spit out a liquid almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.

Re:You know what it would produce (1)

feepness (543479) | about 3 years ago | (#36950456)

And the 3D printer would spit out a liquid almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea^H^H^H a car.

FTFY.

Re:You know what it would produce (1)

blair1q (305137) | about 3 years ago | (#36950512)

I was gonna say.

Call me when it can actually make: tea, Earl Grey, hot.

Actually, Earl Grey is vile and pussified. I'll have the Assam.

Not quite replicator tech yet (2)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about 3 years ago | (#36950030)

From what I remember replicators converted energy into matter. 3D printing converts matter in one form like powder to a more solid form another albeit it is very customizable in the shape of the objects. To me it's more like assembly than replication.

Re:Not quite replicator tech yet (1)

earls (1367951) | about 3 years ago | (#36950208)

Replicate
1. The action of copying or reproducing something.
2. A copy.

I guess it all depends on your threshold of a copy.

Re:Not quite replicator tech yet (1)

Genda (560240) | about 3 years ago | (#36950838)

Actually the first replicators on Star Trek (Star Trek Enterprise), were assemblers, assembling food stuffs from raw molecular stock (also a great way to recycle organic waste on a ship.) The question is always one of energy. The energy required to assemble a steak is not insignificant. The energy required to replicate a steak from energy to matter however is stunning. Of course there may be all kinds of cool technologies to reduce the ridiculous amount of energy it would take using the tech we now have to perform that task. Matter Antimatter technology gives you almost unlimited energy, but I think there would probably be better ways to use it. If you remember the original Star Trek series food was manufactured (small colorful cubes and odd shapes) and replication was reserved for producing industrial components and ship parts. That seems much more likely to me.

Re:Not quite replicator tech yet (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 3 years ago | (#36950852)

Start trek replicators function by rearranging matter. Crap in*, stuff out. They use the same technology as transporters, but use low-resolution images rather than a submolecular-level resolution from a pattern buffer**. The lower resolution isn't good enough for making living tissue, and the slight chemical distortion in food products gives them a harmless but unpleasant taste.


*Literially. As Enterprise established, the toilets are piped into the replicator input. DS9 established that the ship's air is also fed into the replicators to scavange it for carbon atoms, thus keeping ihe CO2 levels down.
** Vital part of a transporter - a memory that can hold an insanely huge amount of information, including quantum information, though only for a very brief time before the data becomes corrupted (With dirty, dangerous hacks it can be made to sometimes last longer, but not reliably). Readout is also destructive (espicially the quantum. No-cloning theorm), which is why transporters cannot be used as replicators.

Virus (3, Funny)

SnarfQuest (469614) | about 3 years ago | (#36950050)

Can you imagine the kind of virus attacks you will have to protect yourself from?

Beyond a pile of dildos falling out of your inbox every day, you may have to deal with theif-bots, explosives, smelly messes, noise makers, and herbal viagra advertisements. Then, there will also be the polotical campaigns.

Re:Virus (1)

TehNoobTrumpet (1836716) | about 3 years ago | (#36950180)

Political Campaigns?
Hey maybe instead of ads they'll start printing out money for us so we vote for them!

Re:Virus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36950408)

I think it's extremely unlikely that you would catch a virus from a freshly made dildo.

Re:Virus (1)

Genda (560240) | about 3 years ago | (#36950900)

Forget that... what about assassination by putting a virus in someones replicator that replicates a physical virus? In fact you could have the replicator manufacture a virus with a genetic lock to a single person, ensuring only that person would succumb to your specially engineered Ebola virus. You could do all kinds of very unpleasant mischief with such technology.

Won't have it all (4, Interesting)

plover (150551) | about 3 years ago | (#36950064)

3D printing addresses one component of "stuff". Electronics, servomotors, glass, ceramics, metals, all those are components that may need to play a functional part in anything much more complicated than a Lego brick.

Don't get me wrong: I've been in complete awe of 3D printing since I saw one in 1991 at IMTS in Chicago. They used lasers to spot-harden UV-curable resin, then lowered the support table by 0.1 mm and drew in the next layer. After it was complete, they drained the resin and rinsed the part off. It was absolutely amazing, and that was 20 years ago. Modern additive machines are even cooler, with the ability to combine different materials and colors, making a finished part with a much cleaner process.

But they still have to affordably produce a sufficient number of end-user-usable things before we'll see them in the average home. Need a 100 cc measuring cup because all you have are imperial measuring cups? No problem! Need a TV remote control, or a toaster? Sorry.

Re:Won't have it all (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 3 years ago | (#36950214)

There are 3D printers that can produce circuits (although they're expensive and calibration is a bitch). You can even produce motors in them. ICs are still a long way away from being possible though.

Re:Won't have it all (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36950290)

RepRap isn't all that expensive (cupcake is sub $1000). Two years ago someone did make a PCB from plastic and solder [reprap.org] . Granted, it's inefficient and slow, but that will only improve with time.

Re:Won't have it all (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 3 years ago | (#36950678)

ICs are like the easiest fucking thing to make an auto-fab for. The fact that they don't exist is due to tight tolerances--quality of manufacturing and maintenance needs are so high it's not feasible outside an industrial situation.

Re:Won't have it all (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36950272)

You know what I think people will want to make with these?

Guns.

Re:Won't have it all (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 3 years ago | (#36950882)

Those parts are all common though - not custom-made for a specific application.

The toaster is almost doable. You could create a toaster frame out of thermoset plastic, but you'd have to wind the heating wire on it by hand, and it would have no timer or switch. Fire hazard.

Because we're accustomed to cheap shit that breaks (2, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 3 years ago | (#36950088)

The natural progression of most products is towards disposable goods. The danger of this generation (and likely the next) of replication machines is that the materials will not have the kind of physical properties that make things durable. Luckily we've been weaned off durable, and now we expect to be able to break most items with moderate human force. And these items will fit the bill in that case.

Making components for system critical or life safety functions, except as en emergency "everyone will die if the part isn't here right now" condition, is a bad, bad idea. Of course, there are too many people in the world...maybe this is just another way to thin out the herd?

Re:Because we're accustomed to cheap shit that bre (1)

JordanL (886154) | about 3 years ago | (#36950724)

While I agree to some extent with the sentiment you're expressing, I think, in general, the progression has been much more toward identifying the purpose of an item and creating that item to exactly fill that purpose, including its purpose-stated lifetime.

That's all separate from certain consumer goods that have been designed to fail for the good of continual demand. What I'm more saying is, the progression of technology has been more towards "Well, we want a solid model of this guy's bones so that we can plan our surgery with precision before-hand, so if it only lasts a week, that's fine", and engineers have responded with "Well, if we only need it to last that long and not be too durable, I bet we can build a machine that produces them on demand".

Re:Because we're accustomed to cheap shit that bre (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 3 years ago | (#36950738)

Also note that each time a thing is destroyed, society loses its value. Of course, if you can melt down the broken plastic cup as fresh feed stock, then the cost of remaking it is extremely low... but then we get into soviet methods .... [bobandgeorge.com]

wtf star trek? (1)

Cederic (9623) | about 3 years ago | (#36950092)

Picard's Star Trek post-dated Douglas Adams' take on the replicating tea machine, which was a sadly far more likely outcome than the Star Trek ideal.

A far more interesting exploration of replicating technology within the home was in Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age. Although aspects of the exploration within that book went somewhat esoteric it did at least give a hard sci-fi contemplation of the impact of the technology, instead of using it as the background to space opera.

Re:wtf star trek? (2)

rbrausse (1319883) | about 3 years ago | (#36950430)

Picard's Star Trek post-dated Douglas Adams' take on the replicating tea machine, which was a sadly far more likely outcome than the Star Trek ideal.

hey, we're talking about the 24th century here. maybe Picard prefers his Earl Grey as almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea :)

A far more interesting exploration of replicating technology within the home was in Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age. Although aspects of the exploration within that book went somewhat esoteric it did at least give a hard sci-fi contemplation of the impact of the technology, instead of using it as the background to space opera.

/. and literature, a strange but fitting combination... another nice novel about the possibilities of a self-made/replication-tech society is Doctorow's Makers [craphound.com] .

Knee Replacements (3, Informative)

Tihstae (86842) | about 3 years ago | (#36950104)

These guys http:http://www.conformis.com/index.asp/ [conformis.com] make knee replacements based off of MRI or CT scans. They exactly match your knee rather than the surgeon choosing from small, medium, or large parts out of a bin.

Amazing stuff.

Car Analogy (3, Interesting)

rodrigoandrade (713371) | about 3 years ago | (#36950118)

When was the last time you built your own car? All parts required are readily available.

What percentage of all PC users build their own PC (overall PC users, not /. geeks)??

The thing is, most people don't have patince/skill to build things, and they're better of just buying thigs they need, like TFA says.

3D printing could be the next industrial revolution, but it could also be a niche for hobbists.

Re:Car Analogy (1)

the_humeister (922869) | about 3 years ago | (#36950366)

Assembling a computer from parts is fairly easy. Building new components is a little more difficult. I don't have access to a billion-dollar chip fabrication plant.

Re:Car Analogy (1)

twistedsymphony (956982) | about 3 years ago | (#36950640)

You're absolutely right, every-time I hear someone yell that the sky is falling because of 3D printers I ask them how it is that books managed to survive the era of the home printer... just because you CAN print something at home doesn't mean it's cheaper or easier than going to the store.

I'm sure we'll get to a point where lots of people have their own 3D printer (I'm actually looking at building/buying one myself) but consumer technology is ALWAYS behind the curve compared to what is being used in industry... so to matter how fast/cheap/good home printing gets... the industrial equivalent will always be faster/cheaper/better. Its the same reason the desktop paper printer never effected people going to the store to buy their books... because as well as desktop printing has progressed, industrial techniques have always been further ahead of the curve.

Re:Car Analogy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36950726)

When was the last time you built your own car? All parts required are readily available.

For something basic (70's tech or older), this is true. For anything that will pass a current smog test, the ECU is pretty likely to be locked down by enough proprietary crap to drive a person mad. Add in the legal complications and safety requirements, and you'll quickly find yourself in one of two scenarios: 1: you can build it, but are forbidden from ever taking it onto public roadways, or 2: you can build it and use it personally, but are forbidden from ever selling it to anyone else without some serious liability insurance to back it up.
 
  Another point worth making is that the only reason that we have anybody even building their own PCs is due to standard interfaces. e.g. You can buy a SATA drive and know that it will work on your board, no matter the brand because the interface is the same. Graphics cards, power supplies, fans; they all typically conform to a handful of standards, and compatible parts are available from several manufacturers. Cars on the other hand are rarely compatible with parts from different years of the same model. If you want to start switching around drivetrain components, be prepared for a lot of welding, engineering headaches, and hours of searching for some botique manufacturer who makes a compatible bell housing that will clear the firewall. For computers, it would be like having to solder the chips and connections together piece by piece. Yes, there are people who can do it, but standards and interoperability have made it a significantly easier process.

View from the bbc (3, Interesting)

auric_dude (610172) | about 3 years ago | (#36950146)

A few well timed words from the BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b012r7ty [bbc.co.uk] - listen or look. Quite a few ideas and links to follow.

Cost & physical usability is Critical (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36950156)

The 3D design can cost a lot in time, software or contracting work. That is typically ignored in news articles.

Models vary in strength and precision depending on the RP process & material. When you need fictional fitting parts, the finishing & fitting time can become the biggest expense.

I don't think RP 3D modeled "printer" parts at home are anything but a development tool at best.

Want SS, titanium or SLS Nylon Parts? Be prepared to spend $0.5 million or so for the machine.

Devil is in the details.

Re:Cost & physical usability is Critical (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 3 years ago | (#36950228)

There is free 3D software, designs only need to be done once so sharing them online seems perfectly feasible.

I do not think people will commonly own them for the latter reasons, the same reason I do not own a photo printer. Either I could buy a crappy one that costs a lot in "ink" and does a poor job or just hire out to have the part made and mailed to me, like I do with photos.

I really wish people would shut up about these. (-1, Flamebait)

bistromath007 (1253428) | about 3 years ago | (#36950158)

They are just about the most boring technology we have today. They will not revolutionize anything. They take forever, cost too much, and have hilariously limited capabilities, and they've been that way for years, putting them way behind the curve of technological process. They only thing they might eventually be good for is specialized prototyping; currently, you're still better off just making the junk yourself.

And yet for some reason, at least two or three times a year, some idiot in charge of a slow news day decides to compare these things to awesome magical nanotech as though they're in any way new or interesting. Just... shut up. God.

Re:I really wish people would shut up about these. (2)

eln (21727) | about 3 years ago | (#36950520)

I agree that there are serious technical hurdles to get over before these could possibly be revolutionary to the average person, and those hurdles might never be overcome.

However, I feel it's worth mentioning that your entire post could have been written about computers at any point from the 1940s until the mid-1980s, and they turned out to be kind of a big deal after all.

Re:I really wish people would shut up about these. (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 3 years ago | (#36950578)

ignorant point of view, tech been used by industry for decades. As it becomes within reach of home user many things are possible. I was once manager of a group that made power switching systems for buildings and military installations, and whenever Motorola would go into prototyping mode for new cell phone lines all my projects for transfers switch enclosure would get backed up, all the mom & pop prototyping shops for miles around Chicago would be backed up.

Re:I really wish people would shut up about these. (2)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 3 years ago | (#36950826)

They are just about the most boring technology we have today. They will not revolutionize anything..

They already have. Surgery (by modeling from MRI scans to get a better look before surgery), surgical replacement (custom-made joint replacements), product design testing and visualization (i.e. make a shoe or a skateboard; I've considered using one to make the plastic housing for a particular bicycle light), architectural modeling (quick and easy way to go from the CAD design to a model: much less time and labor).

Biotech has focused on using similar techniques to construct organs and such from tissues, with limited success. Forensics has found the use of image analysis software helpful: one can scan a bunch of pieces of a fragmented object and have the computer emit a physical model of the original undamaged object.

Slashdot = News for Nerds, remember? (2)

Richard Kirk (535523) | about 3 years ago | (#36950834)

Do you remember the first computers? You could spend 20 minutes loading a simple game from audio tape on a Commadore PET, only to have it fail the checksum. The audio was 'beep'. The displays were black and green, or awful CGA black, magenta, cyan and white, or black, red, green and yellow. The printers used thermal paper and had a tiny resolution. It was grim, but it was fun too for some of us who could see this as the first glimmers of a new universe of possibilities from a machine made not for particular purpose, but to be capable of doing an unknown nearly infinite set of things. Meanwhile the press said 'you can store recipies on these things', and 'they can remind you of diary appointments', and the average user wondered what the fuss was about.

The RepRap is like an X-Y plotter with a glue gun. It will produce arbitrary but rather wonky shapes with glue gun drool. It is pretty limited in materials. If you say "Faberge Egg" and hold out your hands, you will be disappointed. But it is affordable in the way the early computers were if you were a dedicated hobbyist, such as you may find in the the Slashdot target demographic. There are machines that can manage more materials and higher resolutions, but they cost much more. We got nice looking color pictures on our computers in the end. In time we shall get nice, smooth, hard (or soft) objects from our 3D printers. The press says 'you can make tea with these', and the average user wonders why on earth they should get excited about one. But those who understand what they are now, and also what they will become are excited.

Not interested? Well, the Internet is big these days, and I am sure you will find the lolcats, tubgirl, furry porn or whatever it is you are looking for. But the Internet was small once, and we had a lot of fun watching it grow. These are going to be interesting times for 3D printing, and we are going to have ourselves some fun all over again, and the Grinch himself cannot stop us...

Retail 3D printing (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36950188)

In convenience stores such as Walgreens and CVS, film developing is becoming less common but customers still order large stacks of digital photos. I wonder if it's time for them to replace the film developing machine with a 3D printer. It would be neat to set the machine out where customers could see it, as long as it's not too sensitive to vibration as children would run up to it. The complexity of orders could range from pre-modeled objects to customer-modeled. The store could only finish about one object a day, but that would suit management since production is low-labor and retail staffs are stretched thin nowadays.

Is anybody here currently working in a retail photo shop, or better yet, work in equipment acquisition? How viable is this?

copyright stuff (4, Insightful)

craftycoder (1851452) | about 3 years ago | (#36950200)

I think people who say 3D printers are "not going anywhere thanks to IP law" are missing the point. 3D printers are for people who want to design and build their own things and less about trying to save money by building your own version of a absurdly cheap Walmart available gizmo. A 3D printer will never compete with Lego as an affordable way to replace Lego's manufacturing capabilities. I have no doubt that these machines will be co-opted for nefarious goals on occasion, but mostly they will be cost additive rather than cost saving or even cost neutral compared to the mark up on a manufactured items.

I have a couple of things I've been wanting to build for quite sometime but I don't have rapid prototyping capabilities at home. Once I get to my local hackerspace and print out a a few prototypes and get the design worked out I'll be having them machined out of aluminum and sell the products. More money will move through the economy and maybe even a few jobs will be created. These may even bring about a renaissance in the small business. Here's to hoping anyway.

Re:copyright stuff (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36950380)

I think people who say 3D printers are "not going anywhere thanks to IP law" are missing the point. 3D printers are for people who want to design and build their own things and less about trying to save money by building your own version of a absurdly cheap Walmart available gizmo.

What about replacement parts? That's where the real use of a 3D printer is, IMO. I'm not interested in copying a $5 plastic toy from Wal-Mart, but I would have liked to copy that $100 plastic laptop back cover when it broke.

Re:copyright stuff (1)

craftycoder (1851452) | about 3 years ago | (#36950538)

That will require an extraordinarily expensive 3D printer because the ones that cost a couple thousand won't make something that big or that thin (with similar strength). 3D printing is at least a decade (several decades is my guess) away from replacing commodity item purchases. They are an incredible tool for rapid prototyping but beyond that they are not a serious threat to manufacturers of plastic crap.

Toffler's FutureShock? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36950238)

Sounds like some of Alvin Toffler's Future Shock ideas are coming into play.

Replication has been here for a while now (3, Interesting)

DanielRavenNest (107550) | about 3 years ago | (#36950248)

Haas Automation, the largest automated machine tool maker in the US uses automated machine tools to make more automated machine tools. They use several hundred of their own products on their factory floor. This also lets them test out their product in a real working environment.

Re:Replication has been here for a while now (2)

rubycodez (864176) | about 3 years ago | (#36950624)

of course, replication without automation has been around even longer. My father worked in large U.S. tool and die maker that routinely used their milling machines to make more milling machines, with a lot of blood, sweat and tears of very skilled machinists. Amazing what they did before CNC, complex curves by various tricks of the trade.

Not cost effective (4, Informative)

i_b_don (1049110) | about 3 years ago | (#36950370)

Look, 3D printers are cool. They're awesome for anyone who ever wanted to build something quickly. I use one at work regularity so I fully appreciate the technology..... BUT they are just not cost effective compared to mass manufacturing processes.

There are often many different ways to build something in manufacturing. You can machine something, mold something, 3D print something, etc, and many different flavors of each type of manufacturing. It will be 50 years before 3D printing a lego is anywhere near as cheap as just molding a lego if ever. This is the way of things. 3D printing is awesome for doing small custom things and giving you the ability to do stuff that you either couldn't do before or that would take you a lot of time and skill to develop on your own.

Let me give you a simple example. I use our 3D printer to manufacture small plastic pieces used in semi-conductors assemblies. This is not my primary job, just a skill that allows me to get my real job done faster. The size of the pieces I print out are around 2" x 2" x 0.5" or smaller. If I try to mass manufacturer them then I can *maybe* do them around 1 per hour. (I have to fill the platter with say 20 of them and it'll take me 20 hours to complete). This will get me accuracy that is not quite as good as molding or machining, but it's within an order of magnitude.

So, it's not better, not cheaper, and not faster (on a per piece basis). What it gets me is small-quantity-cheap. Custom stuff, prototypes, one-offs, etc. That's it's advantage. AND it can also do some stuff traditional machining/molding just can't do ever. These are this technology's sweet spots. Even if you give the technology 10 or 20 years, you're not going to compete with molding. It's just not cost effective.

Yes 3D printing is awesome. Yes it gives us the ability to prototype stuff in 6 hours or overnight. Yes it's cheap for stuff like that, but it's just not the be-all and do-all that the "tea, Earl gray" line would have you expect. It will be rare that you will save money by printing out your own stuff even ignoring the cost of the machine itself.

d

Stupid Computer (5, Insightful)

Toe, The (545098) | about 3 years ago | (#36950386)

WhyTF does Picard have to say "Tea. Earl Grey. Hot" every freakin' time?

A computer that is sophisticated enough to fly a warpdrive spaceship and replicate food should be able to understand user preferences, no?

Shouldn't he just say, "cuppa tea" or just, "the usual" and get a nice hot cup of Earl Grey?

Only explanation is it's MS Enterprise 5.7 and user preferences are the great new groundbreaking feature in MS Enterprise 6... expected any decade now.

Re:Stupid Computer (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 3 years ago | (#36950636)

maybe picard often got a wild hair and would drink thai ice tea or american licorice and orange rind colonial tea

Re:Stupid Computer (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 3 years ago | (#36950706)

come to think of it, that wild hair between his teen might have belonged to a certain bartender

A is for Anything (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36950718)

Brings to mind an old novel "A is for Anything". Replicators that could replicate anything, including themselves and people, resulted in a society with a very few, very affluent, and a large slave class.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_for_Anything

Lego is not the enemy (1)

voss (52565) | about 3 years ago | (#36950894)

Imagine "Lego Factory" a 3d printer designed to print low volume customized and/or specialized lego parts.

Imagine creating your own set of 100 lego blocks with any color you can imagine.

Of course if lego doesnt want to do that...someone else will...especially since the shape of the lego brick
is no longer legally protected as a trademark.

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