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Inside the World's Biggest Consumer 3D Printing Factory

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the set-to-churn-out-slightly-smaller-factories dept.

Technology 105

Sparrowvsrevolution writes "Much has been made of consumer 3D printers like Makerbot's Replicator and the open-source RepRap. But for those not yet willing to shell out thousands of dollars for their own machine, Shapeways offers 3D printing as a mail-order service. And its new Queens, NY factory is now the biggest production facility for consumer 3D printing in the world. Just one of Shapeways' industrial 3D printers, which use lasers to fuse nylon dust, can print a thousand objects in a day, with far higher resolution than a consumer machine as well as intricate features like interlocking and nested parts. The company hopes to have more than fifty of those printers up and running within a year. And it also offers printing in materials that aren't attainable at home, like gold, silver, ceramic, sandstone and steel."

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Is it just me or... (-1, Offtopic)

Press2ToContinue (2424598) | about 2 years ago | (#42256375)

or does this website have the world's biggest default font size? What is that, 20-point Times Roman? Does this website scream "This website is for old farts" or what?

Re:Is it just me or... (0)

FriendlyStatistician (2652203) | about 2 years ago | (#42256821)

It's Forbes. It's designed for rich old people with poor eyesight.

Re:Is it just me or... (2)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#42260811)

Rich old people don't have poor eyesight, poor old people do. Rich old people can have their cataracts, nearsightedness, age-related farsightedness, and astigmatism completely cured for $15,000, the price of two CrystaLens implant surgeries.

I'm 60 and have one in my left eye, my vision is better than 20/20 at all distances. My eyesight (which used to be incredibly nearsighted as well as age-related farsighted; I had contacts AND reading glasses) is better than most 20 year olds. I now need no corrective lenses at all.

Hooray for technology!

You will be assimilated... if you can afford it.

Maybe Forbes is for poor old people who wish they were rich?

Re:Is it just me or... (3, Informative)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | about 2 years ago | (#42257843)

Control + scrolwheel down works in most browsers

Re:Is it just me or... (1)

bmo (77928) | about 2 years ago | (#42258011)

NPR blogs has been doing this lately too with 20 point sans-serif. It's annoying as hell.

I seriously do believe that they are compensating for people who can't be arsed to adjust minimum font size (or dpi) on their own, or to even tell Windows to "use big fonts."

Look at this. Just look at it.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/ [npr.org]

I'm 47. I'm not blind.

--
BMO

Re:Is it just me or... (1)

Simon Brooke (45012) | about 2 years ago | (#42260621)

NPR blogs has been doing this lately too with 20 point sans-serif. It's annoying as hell.

I seriously do believe that they are compensating for people who can't be arsed to adjust minimum font size (or dpi) on their own, or to even tell Windows to "use big fonts."

Look at this. Just look at it.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/ [npr.org]

I'm 47. I'm not blind.

Oh, God.

That site specifies font sizes in pixels. That's going to look oh-so-readable on 'retina' displays...

CSS was very carefully designed to adapt to the specified needs of the USER. The user knows what size font (s)he finds comfortable to use, and can be presumed to have configured the browser to render normal sized font at that size. Specifying font sizes in absolute sizes - point sizes, millimetres, whatever - breaks that, but at least eight point font should be one tenth of an inch tall on any correctly configured display. Pixel sizes - pixel sizes - are display dependent. No wonder it looks fucking huge on your screen, the designer was probably using a late-model MacBook Pro and it was tiny on his screen...

This is NOT rocket science, guys.

Re:Is it just me or... (1)

Tephlon_74 (943433) | about 2 years ago | (#42263201)

Meh, Apple has put some smart safeguards in Safari (And Firefox and Chrome have also adapted it) that translates "font-size: 12px;" to 24px. However, as hi-res displays become more commonplace also on Windows PCs, this might becom an issue.

Re:Is it just me or... (1)

micheas (231635) | about 2 years ago | (#42259641)

It is the default base font size for the modular scale plug in for compass. Changing it would be one line in the config file and then recompiling the css.

so what's the barrier to entry on this? (2)

Trepidity (597) | about 2 years ago | (#42256391)

If I front some capital, can I become the next Shapeways? Do I just buy machines people can't afford, and then print things on those machines, selling them at a markup sufficient to recoup my costs? Or is there something else going on?

Re:so what's the barrier to entry on this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42256525)

Have you never taken a business class in your entire life?

Re:so what's the barrier to entry on this? (3, Informative)

Anaerin (905998) | about 2 years ago | (#42256557)

To answer your questions, in order:

  • Yes
  • Yes
  • No, that's all there is to it.

Re:so what's the barrier to entry on this? (2)

NoMaster (142776) | about 2 years ago | (#42257021)

You left out the bit about getting your advertising for free...

Re:so what's the barrier to entry on this? (1)

kryzx (178628) | about 2 years ago | (#42257147)

No, no, you missed the point of the whole story, which is: hey these machines are soooo cooooool!!!!
And it's true. They are.
Wait, were we supposed to be posting news?

Re:so what's the barrier to entry on this? (4, Insightful)

Tr3vin (1220548) | about 2 years ago | (#42256571)

There is a bit more going on. I don't know how easily you could jump into the market at this point. Shapeways benefited from being one of the first to offer a 3D printing service, so they didn't have too much competition. There was also a bit of an overlap with their early community and the community around Blender, so the userbase was able to grow quickly. They had some growing pains early on with delays in printing although it appears that they have worked through most of the issues at this point. It wouldn't be impossible to have similar success, but being the new guy in the market isn't always the easiest. The best bet of course is to not just join the market but expand it.

Re:so what's the barrier to entry on this? (0)

mveloso (325617) | about 2 years ago | (#42256707)

Yeah, basically.

Re:so what's the barrier to entry on this? (4, Insightful)

Kielistic (1273232) | about 2 years ago | (#42256719)

It would require a lot of capital. These machines and their materials are absurdly expensive. You require knowledge on how these machines function. You need to be able to translate what the customer wants to the given machine (high 3d modelling and CAD skills). You need the know-how to put objects together into single prints so you're not waiting for one single small object (optimization). And most importantly you need to be able to add the support structures so the objects do not break in the process (physics, 3d modelling, CAD). Etc etc.

So essentially, like any other highly specialized tech field, it requires lots of expertise. You don't just load up a docx and hit print.

Re:so what's the barrier to entry on this? (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 2 years ago | (#42257521)

Support structures? You don't seem to understand how their printers work.

Re:so what's the barrier to entry on this? (2, Informative)

Kielistic (1273232) | about 2 years ago | (#42257881)

I know quite well how their printers work. But in case you don't believe me here's Shapeways' take on the topic: support structures [google.com]

Re:so what's the barrier to entry on this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42258865)

stop spreading FUD, you can print pretty much anything without support structures with the latest printers.

Re:so what's the barrier to entry on this? (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 2 years ago | (#42262143)

Selective Laser Sintering does not need support structures, unlike Fused Deposition Modeling.

Re:so what's the barrier to entry on this? (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 2 years ago | (#42258813)

Support structures? You don't seem to understand how their printers work.

some of their techniques need support structures. what makes it hard to start competing with shapeways is that they have pretty much all 3d printing techniques covered.

Re:so what's the barrier to entry on this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42264915)

" You don't just load up a docx and hit print."

But isn't that the whole purpose of consumer 3D printers? That it's all done for you in the software... Otherwise, can do just as good with a hand and chisel.

Re:so what's the barrier to entry on this? (4, Interesting)

poity (465672) | about 2 years ago | (#42256739)

The most important part is getting people to know you exist (and getting them to trust you). Now that Shapeways has an article on Forbes, everyone else, including you, is miles behind.

Re:so what's the barrier to entry on this? (1)

drkim (1559875) | about 2 years ago | (#42257477)

They also demoed at SIGGRAPH. Very cool samples.

Since it's a new industry, marketing. Don't buy... (3, Interesting)

raymorris (2726007) | about 2 years ago | (#42256835)

In a banjs new industry, it's all about marketing, getting market share. Profits come later, after the market stabilizes and you are the market leader. So plan to spend a lot more on marketing than machines at first. Also, three months later, better machines will come out. Buy smart and plan to replace often. Better processes will also be developed, so budget big for research and development so that your process is better than the other guy's.

Re:Since it's a new industry, marketing. Don't buy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42264855)

Considering the fact that in the video, nearly all but one (yes, the bikini!) of the shown products is unless junk. Wow a video full of desk weights! Or stuff you buy at sharper image (useless) or spencer gifts.

Is that the future of 3D printing? 3D is cool, but there's way too much creative hype.

Instead of useless apps, we now have useless (possibly throw away) 'stuff' made of nylon. Looks neat, is cool and built precisely thingy's, but in reality a waste of material IMHO.

Re:so what's the barrier to entry on this? (3, Interesting)

samkass (174571) | about 2 years ago | (#42256915)

One barrier to entry could conceivably be (of course!) patents. The first company to do large-scale 3D printing I'm aware of was Align Technology, Inc., maker of Invisalign plastic braces (I'm a former employee). They've been printing positive molds for the aligners using stereolithography for over a dozen years, and have a lot of patents in the "mass customization" industry. When you start printing tens of thousands of unique objects a day like they've been doing for years there are certain methods that give you economies of scale despite each piece being different. It's not applicable to low-volume home printing, but when you get to a warehouse of 3D printers things could get interesting. There are probably other companies out there with additional work in this space that will crop up if it gets lucrative enough. (And hey, many aren't even software patents.)

Re:so what's the barrier to entry on this? (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | about 2 years ago | (#42257321)

They don't mention it, but I would imagine there is a lot of automatic optimization for maximizing yield per print across multiple orders. I bet there's some Tetris Master level packing that's augmented by some automatic order system.

You also need a front end as well as a hopefully automated back-end to detect model errors (holes etc). As well as some software to weed out models that can't print well.

These are still high-tech devices and I'm sure you would also need people who are trained in the numerous different printing techniques and materials to do one final verification of each print job.

So yeah, if you wanted to develop an e-commerce front end, build a community, put together a 3D printing verification and packing pipeline as well as round up the multi-million dollar seed money you too could be the (probably barely profitable) next Shapeways!

Re:so what's the barrier to entry on this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42257649)

I used to work with a guy who had a laser cutting machine. He made a few bucks on the side, but couldn't quit his day job. Like anything else, there's only room for a few players. Yes, hard work matters; but so does luck.

Re:so what's the barrier to entry on this? (1)

Daetrin (576516) | about 2 years ago | (#42262873)

Whoa! You mean if people want [good or service] all i have to do is find a way convince people to buy [good or service] from me for more than it would cost me to [acquire/produce/provide] that [good or service] in bulk? That's amazing! Why isn't everyone doing that?

As usual, the devil is in the details. And in surviving the eventual competition with everyone else who gets the kinks worked out of the system as well.

Re:so what's the barrier to entry on this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42263315)

Why play around with hardware you might not even know or want to operate 24/7? Just buy a part of Shapeways and get your foot in the game while wasting fewer hours of your life. (Or buy stock in any company XYZ that you think will take off.)

Good service (4, Informative)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 2 years ago | (#42256421)

I ordered the sintered steel thorn dice set from them for roleplaying games, and I have to say I'm delighted. I'd imagine in about fifty years home manufactories will be about as common as power tool sets are today, although if you want the best quality you'll have to go to larger producers. Mostly they will be used for short term, specialised, low stress, or artistic requirements though, I can't see anyone printing off high end tech like the latest laptop cheaper than it could be bought through regular channels.

Cost (1)

Dan East (318230) | about 2 years ago | (#42256485)

Neither the story, the summary, or even your comment, has what most people want to know: how much does their service cost?
How much did your dice cost? Do they charge by the time it takes to print, or the amount of material used?

Re:Cost (3, Informative)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 2 years ago | (#42256541)

Eh its all on their site. The steel dice that let me roll like Sauron cost about $12-$15 each, with the expected postage. Those were the most expensive ones though except the gold plated versions, so material used would be the main thing associated with the cost. http://www.shapeways.com/model/126266/thorn-dice-set-with-decader.html [shapeways.com]

Re:Cost (1)

50000BTU_barbecue (588132) | about 2 years ago | (#42256627)

That's not too expensive. The vintage scope people , like me, are quite happy that they can make replacement knobs, so I wasn't too sure what else could be done. I wonder how detailed and solid you can make these steel parts. "Solid", of course, being a highly technical term meaning it won't snap in half when I turn one of those massive control shafts on a Tektronix 547.

Re:Cost (1)

illumnatLA (820383) | about 2 years ago | (#42256975)

The amount of detail all depends on the material you're printing in. IIRC, some of the metals can be really detailed. They have full details on what the specs are for each material on their website. http://www.shapeways.com/materials/material-options [shapeways.com]

Re:Cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42256673)

The important question: Could you get loaded dice?

Re:Cost (1)

guises (2423402) | about 2 years ago | (#42258439)

Yes, but they'd have to be hollow and you can't print hollow objects without holes in them. So, in other words, people would be able to look inside your dice and see that they weren't symmetrical.

Typical loaded dice are made with two types of material, one denser than the other, and Shapeways only prints with a single material. So printing dice that are asymmetrical is the only option.

Re:Cost (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 2 years ago | (#42259621)

Yes, but they'd have to be hollow and you can't print hollow objects without holes in them. So, in other words, people would be able to look inside your dice and see that they weren't symmetrical.

Typical loaded dice are made with two types of material, one denser than the other, and Shapeways only prints with a single material. So printing dice that are asymmetrical is the only option.

sintered doesn't allow for holes and cavities? all other techniques do, even home fdm(provided there's not impossibly long bridges or overhangs).

Re:Cost (2)

guises (2423402) | about 2 years ago | (#42260069)

Without an opening in the cavity you can't get the powder out. You're starting with a bed of powder and you're fusing parts of it together - if you try to make an unbroken shell you're just going to wind up with something full of your material powder.

Re:Cost (2)

Anaerin (905998) | about 2 years ago | (#42256549)

They charge by the amount of material used, as a simple glance at http://www.shapeways.com/materials [shapeways.com] would show you.

Re:Cost (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 2 years ago | (#42256935)

Is the amount of material used just the weight of the finished product, or is there some overhead / waste (like in woodworking?) Second, do they analyze your design ahead of time and tell you exactly what the print cost would be?

I also wondered, is there any way to know if a design will print out correctly? For example if I designed a pencil balancing on its tip with no supports, does the software, or somebody at shapeways, alert me that I'm being stupid?

Re:Cost (1)

illumnatLA (820383) | about 2 years ago | (#42257067)

I also wondered, is there any way to know if a design will print out correctly? For example if I designed a pencil balancing on its tip with no supports, does the software, or somebody at shapeways, alert me that I'm being stupid?

Yep... they check your models before they print it and will notify you of problems like that. From their FAQ [shapeways.com] :

When a product is ordered for the first time a manual check will be done to make sure the object is printable. Now, factors like wall thickness and detail thickness are tested, which sometimes leads to the rejection of the design. Sometimes products for sale (whether it is your own or not) can be uploaded but turn out not to be printable.

Unfortunately, we do not have an automated way of checking every single design rule, which is why we optimize and only do a thorough (manual) check for designs that are ordered, not just designs that are uploaded.

Re:Cost (1)

lewiscr (3314) | about 2 years ago | (#42265933)

For example if I designed a pencil balancing on its tip with no supports, does the software, or somebody at shapeways, alert me that I'm being stupid?

That shouldn't be a problem. If you watch the video in TFA, the item is built up layer by layer, supported by un-fused stock. Your pencil balancing on it's tip will be supported by surrounding material, until it's finished and removed. At which point it won't be balanced on it's tip anymore. This is how they build hollow pieces, and pieces with overhangs.

As the sibling poster mentioned, they do check for other things. Like they make sure that hollow items aren't too thin, connecting struts actually connect, etc.

Re:Cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42256615)

It's surprisingly affordable, depending on what you're buying. I've been using them for little projects for several years. Something the size of an action figure in full-color starch material (like the WoW character statues) can be had for about $20. Metal is more expensive, but if you're doing a small object like a ring or necklace it's pretty cheap. I have a one-inch long miniature space shuttle that would only be about $10 in stainless steel. Ceramic materials are expensive at sizes you would use - I've made a pair of small tea cups that were $45 each. Generally they charge by volume of material used, but ceramic is by surface area because glazing is the expensive step.

Re: home manufactories (1)

macraig (621737) | about 2 years ago | (#42257747)

... home manufactories....

After all the Warhammer gaming, I think I'll be calling mine a Manufactorum.

bizna7ch (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42256465)

Re:bizna7ch (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42256491)

I find your ideas intriguing, and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

Wow (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42256481)

Why are we getting excited about something that just makes shapes in one material? Why are people acting like this is a Star Trek replicator?

Questionable goods (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 2 years ago | (#42256511)

Okay, what if I submit a design to print a 3D gun (or replacement parts for one)? What about the packaging for, say, a credit card skimmer? How about a timing circuit made entirely out of electrically-conductive plastic (so it doesn't show up on an x-ray scanner)? I can only hope they look at the things being submitted; But I'm reminded of the scene in Batman begins where Alfred says, "Well, we'll have to order a lot of them in order to avoid suspicion." "Oh? How many?" "About ten thousand sir." "Well, at least we'll have spares."

3D printers open up a whole new world for both good and bad applications. If they aren't thinking about this now, they should start -- because someone else is reading this right now and tapping their fingers together saying "myes, myes my pretties..."

Re:Questionable goods (4, Insightful)

LordLucless (582312) | about 2 years ago | (#42256547)

Okay, what if I submit a design to print a 3D gun (or replacement parts for one)? What about the packaging for, say, a credit card skimmer? How about a timing circuit made entirely out of electrically-conductive plastic (so it doesn't show up on an x-ray scanner)?

Um, then you should receive a 3D gun, the packaging for a credit card skimmer, or a timing circuit. Haven't we gotten past this "make the tools illegal" crap yet? It's what you do with them, not the item itself that's problematic, and there are valid uses for all the above.

Re:Questionable goods (3, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 2 years ago | (#42256605)

Um, then you should receive a 3D gun, the packaging for a credit card skimmer, or a timing circuit. Haven't we gotten past this "make the tools illegal" crap yet? It's what you do with them, not the item itself that's problematic, and there are valid uses for all the above.

I've tried telling my government that... but they keep arresting, torturing, threatening, and imprisoning me whenever I do. I'm also on a whole bunch of watch lists, kill lists, security lists, lists of lists, databases of lists, lists of databases... I don't even know anymore whether I'm coded green, yellow, orange, additional screening, deportation... it seems like they come up with new ways to criminalize things every day. I don't know a single person who isn't a felon anymore... the only difference is, not all of them have been caught or pissed in the cheerios of someone "important".

Re:Questionable goods (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | about 2 years ago | (#42256675)

sounds like you have bigger problems than ordering crap you could easily make out of any material

Re:Questionable goods (1)

gmhowell (26755) | about 2 years ago | (#42257545)

sounds like you have bigger problems than ordering crap you could easily make out of any material

This is not news regarding OP.

Re:Questionable goods (-1, Troll)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 2 years ago | (#42256751)

A *TEA* drinker, are you? You sound like you BATHE in a tub with TEA BAGS. Now get back to "prepping" your fucking BOMB SHELTER and counting your MREs and freeze dried corn chowder.

Re:Questionable goods (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42258871)

It's not illegal to make your own gun as long as its legal to own that type of gun (no machine guns for example). FYI it's not illegal to own or use a lathe (yet), and that does the same job.

Re:Questionable goods (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42256787)

law on guns in the US is that you have to actually make it yourself. A company have been raided when they allowed customers to make guns with their machines (don't recall details, may have been fully automated CNC).
Note this applies only to the part that is designated as a gun. all other parts are just parts.

This is wonderful for out of production replacement parts though.

Re:Questionable goods (1)

gmhowell (26755) | about 2 years ago | (#42257557)

To clarify (or not) only the part that ATF refers to as the gun must be home built. The object referenced lately as a 'home printed gun' is the lower receiver for an AR style rifle. It is a piece that holds various control bits. When buying a complete AR-15, it is the part carrying the serial no. A part performing essentially the same function is not always the 'gun' according to the ATF for other platforms.

Re:Questionable goods (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | about 2 years ago | (#42257309)

No. Manufacturing a gun is manufacturing a gun -- which without a license/permit is highly illegal.

I'm sure someone actually hand checks every submission though--otherwise they would have a poor reputation for things failing.

Re:Questionable goods (1)

jafiwam (310805) | about 2 years ago | (#42259281)

It depends on WHO manufactures it, and in what context. If I wanted to, I could use a sharpie and draw on my nice oak desk here, then cut it out with a razorblade, and put AR15 parts on it, and I have legally manufactured a gun.

I just can't do that with intent to SELL the gun.

It doesn't sound like IF the ATF ruled these guys couldn't legally make a lower, that it would qualify as SELLING a gun. After all, I sent them the gun pattern to print. They are selling me labor and materials, but the project is mine.

In any case, you are completely wrong about the general concept of manufacturing a gun for one's own use being illegal.

Re:Questionable goods (1)

jamesh (87723) | about 2 years ago | (#42257399)

Okay, what if I submit a design to print a 3D gun (or replacement parts for one)? What about the packaging for, say, a credit card skimmer? How about a timing circuit made entirely out of electrically-conductive plastic (so it doesn't show up on an x-ray scanner)?

Um, then you should receive a 3D gun, the packaging for a credit card skimmer, or a timing circuit. Haven't we gotten past this "make the tools illegal" crap yet? It's what you do with them, not the item itself that's problematic, and there are valid uses for all the above.

I think you'll find that if you are found to have an unlicensed firearm, your pathetic cries of "but I have a valid use for it!!!" will not do you much good.

Re:Questionable goods (1)

LordLucless (582312) | about 2 years ago | (#42257463)

And I think your assumption that any given gun is necessarily unlicensed is going to get you laughed out of the logicians club.

Re:Questionable goods (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42256731)

I don't know why this service would mean anything special to people who want those things. Those can all be made with more traditional tools. Maybe it would save you a little money or a little time, but it is not like lack of access to a 3d printing service is stopping you from making those. Maybe for organized crime being run like a business where some accountant takes the time to shave 10% off in costs here and there, or for the Slashdotter that thinks 3d printers are the only to make things. If you are really dedicated to causing problems, is 50% off in price or saving several hours of work going to make that big of a difference?

Re:Questionable goods (1)

gmhowell (26755) | about 2 years ago | (#42257571)

Simplicity. There's nothing you can do on a modern computer that cannot be done with an abacus, yet we use them anyway.

Printing a piece, be it a lower receiver for an AR15 or a Warhammer miniature is easier with a home computer printer than it is with a mill or set of woodcarving tools. Outsourcing the printing to a 3rd party is even easier.

You poo poo the time savings of turning out a run of a single copy or short run. That makes sense. But the learning curve to get to that single piece is vastly different.

Re:Questionable goods (1)

jafiwam (310805) | about 2 years ago | (#42259313)

This company might be a huge help with prototyping for new products.

It takes part of the infrastructure needed and outsources it.

Right now, a lot of that is done in China, giving them a chance to steal the design and beat the person to market with a crappier, cheaper version.

That risk goes away with this (somewhat, the Chinese will still probably infiltrate the company)

Re:Questionable goods (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42260133)

Of course the service might be of good use for businesses that need prototypes. The previous AC post was complaining more about the "OMG Terrorist could use this" as if they would not have been able to get those things before, and this would be some sort of bottleneck that could cut them off.

Re:Questionable goods (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42256733)

You're a fucking MORON. Christ, people like you just play right into the TSA paranoia trip... I'll bet you're a Tea Bagger, too.

Tea Party hates TSA, likes guns (2)

raymorris (2726007) | about 2 years ago | (#42256801)

You've got that exactly backwards. Tea Party people hate government interference and enjoy usenet shootong on weekends. His comments are those of a liberal weenie.

Re:Tea Party hates TSA, likes guns (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42257701)

Tea Party wants to be the government interference for all the "liberal weenies" (and others...) they seem to loathe.

Re:Questionable goods (1)

gmhowell (26755) | about 2 years ago | (#42257599)

You're a fucking MORON. Christ, people like you just play right into the TSA paranoia trip... I'll bet you're a Tea Bagger, too.

I don't think 'girlintraining' has teabags, but whatever.

Re:Questionable goods (1)

Anaerin (905998) | about 2 years ago | (#42256761)

Okay, what if I submit a design to print a 3D gun (or replacement parts for one)?

If you submit a design to print a 3D gun, or replacement parts, you'll get them. Of course, the tolerances won't be as close as a specifically machined part, nor would it really be strong enough to use to fire bullets (As it would be made of plastic. Sintered Stainless Steel would be strong enough, but again would have to be machined for an accurate fit).

Or if you wanted to do the same thing easily at home you could make a simple "Zip Gun" with a little plumbing pipe. Or a flamethrower with PVC pipe, a flashback arrestor (for safety) and a ball valve. Or a nuclear bomb with 2KG of plutonium (make sure you have it in 1KG lumps in separate pockets, mind!), a piece of drainpipe and a cherry bomb. Or you could just use a god-damned hammer to beat someone to death.

Yes, 3D printers open up all kinds of applications. Just like CNC routers. Or mills. Or a screwdriver and hammer. Tools can be used for anything, good or bad.

Re:Questionable goods (1)

gmhowell (26755) | about 2 years ago | (#42257603)

If you submit a design to print a 3D gun, or replacement parts, you'll get them. Of course, the tolerances won't be as close as a specifically machined part, nor would it really be strong enough to use to fire bullets (As it would be made of plastic. Sintered Stainless Steel would be strong enough, but again would have to be machined for an accurate fit).

Except for the point where you are either wrong or grossly overstating things. There are plenty of polymer lowers [lw15.com] capable of shooting actual lead bullets (or steel, copper coverings may vary). So far, none of the printed ones seem to have held up long. Then again, the Wright brothers' first attempts weren't so hot either. Or Babbage's first contraptions. But plastic in and of itself is not a deal breaker when it comes to firearms.

Re:Questionable goods (1)

gmhowell (26755) | about 2 years ago | (#42257615)

Damnit, forgot to address another point. I've stated elsewhere (and have others) that the lower receiver is actually a 'gun' according to the ATF in the US. In order to make a gun for sale, you have to go through all sorts of hoops. Making a gun for yourself, not so much. I figure that this 3rd party making a receiver would be 'making a gun' in the eyes of the law and therefore not going to happen. Or not happen much.

Making a grip, sights, barrels, and just about any other part should be ok. Making a lower (and usually a receiver in general) is a dicier proposition. I don't even think 'work for hire' rules/laws get you around this one.

Re:Questionable goods (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 2 years ago | (#42264303)

If you say nuclear bomb it implies fission (as you hint to plutonium). The criticsl mass of plutonium is significantly higher than 2kg though.

Re:Questionable goods (1)

jamesh (87723) | about 2 years ago | (#42257375)

Okay, what if I submit a design to print a 3D gun (or replacement parts for one)? What about the packaging for, say, a credit card skimmer? How about a timing circuit made entirely out of electrically-conductive plastic (so it doesn't show up on an x-ray scanner)? I can only hope they look at the things being submitted; But I'm reminded of the scene in Batman begins where Alfred says, "Well, we'll have to order a lot of them in order to avoid suspicion." "Oh? How many?" "About ten thousand sir." "Well, at least we'll have spares."

3D printers open up a whole new world for both good and bad applications. If they aren't thinking about this now, they should start -- because someone else is reading this right now and tapping their fingers together saying "myes, myes my pretties..."

I don't think this is quite the problem you make it out to be, but it's a perfect angle for the IP protection guys to take... they will be terrified that it will rip the bottom out of their spare parts market (I can't replace the worn out piece of rubber/plastic on my car keys, I have to buy a whole new key assembly for around $300!) but they'll pressure the government to shut it down because it means that little Suzie can order a gun over the internet and the existing laws on gun ownership just won't cut it. And any protests will be met with a very loud "think of the children".

Re:Questionable goods (1)

jafiwam (310805) | about 2 years ago | (#42259331)

Little Suzie can go to any one of a number of free online forums to hook up with sellers who can legally sell to her face to face. As long as it doesn't go across state lines, ATF and any feds are not involved. In a lot of states, no paper trail at all is required.

You are scoring 0 for 2 so far on your gun knowledge. Perhaps you should shut your ignorant ass the fuck up.

Re:Questionable goods (1)

Attila the Bun (952109) | about 2 years ago | (#42258617)

Okay, what if I submit a design to print a 3D gun

This problem is not specific to 3D printers. Just ask Sheffield Forgemasters, who famously made an "oil pipe" for Iraq back in 1990. Oddly, the pipe was enormously strong and specified to very fine tolerances. Turns out it wasn't for oil.

I challenge you (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42256577)

to 3D print a fully functional vacuum tube triode like a 12AU7. You can't. If you can't even 3D print a nasty old low-tech thing like a lowly vacuum tube, what makes you think 3D printing is anything more than a faddish way to make expensive trinkets?

Re:I challenge you (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42256693)

thats all the video showed, and all their site seems to be selling, useless crap trinkets

Re:I challenge you (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42257163)

I challenge you to use a modern, fully equipped machine shop to machine a fully functional horse. You can't. If you can't even machine old low-tech thing like a horse, what makes you think a machine shop could make anything other than expensive trinkets?

Re:I challenge you (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42257449)

Machining a horse? Are you retarded or just intentionally stupid?

Re:I challenge you (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42257605)

Reductio ad absurdum

Picking some arbitrary thing from old technology and saying some tool/shop/etc is not capable of making it, does not mean the tool is relegated to making trinkets. Heck, many modern machine shops and production shops would not be capable of making some components of vacuum tubes either. This is not to say that 3D printing won't be dominated by useless trinkets in the near future... just that the original point was really stupid.

Re:I challenge you (2)

drkim (1559875) | about 2 years ago | (#42257515)

I challenge you to use a modern, fully equipped machine shop to machine a fully functional horse.

A horse is not low tech. It's taken 4 billion years of evolution and controlled breeding to make a modern horse.

Re:I challenge you (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42257637)

And yet, as high tech as a horse is, it cannot make a vacuum tube either. I guess that takes 4 billion+4 years of evolution, controlled breeding, and an engineering degree. I hope the expensive "trinkets" made by horses don't become a fad, despite their inability to make vacuum tubes.

I wonder (0)

Osgeld (1900440) | about 2 years ago | (#42256711)

how many cheap do-dad's, gadgets and custom dice the world needs to support this type of operation in any serious capacity

Won't be long now... (2)

SwampChicken (1383905) | about 2 years ago | (#42256791)

before the MAFIAA turn their attention to these 3D printing outfits.

Re:Won't be long now... (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | about 2 years ago | (#42256945)

before the MAFIAA turn their attention to these 3D printing outfits.

Could one even print a 45 rpm record?

Are these nylon powder printers safe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42257149)

I see they wear particle filter masks, but it looks like the nylon powder can get all over and be inhaled afterward. Anyone more familiar with the safety of this? I realize by the time it gets to the person who purchased it, it's been cleaned up, more concerned about those working with the machines directly.

Speed... not. (1)

bmo (77928) | about 2 years ago | (#42257509)

> can print a thousand objects in a day,

>thousand

Wake me when a 3D printer can output something as simple as a pen clip at 600/minute (which is what you get out of a 30 year old press).

For rapid prototyping, yes, this kind of stuff is OK, because there is no demo tooling that winds up being production tooling (as is typical, bleh) and actually saves money. But to tout these kinds of numbers as if they're any meaningful amount of production is just crazy.

Expecting downmods.

--
BMO

Re:Speed... not. (1)

iphinome (810750) | about 2 years ago | (#42258107)

Speed is nice but not the goal, lowing the cost of production would be ideal. Cheap machines reasonable cost of material so when you need something you don't need to send out for it. Print a replacement scissor for the broken G key on your laptop. A new button knob or battery cover for your gadget, a zipper foot for your sewing machine, a few more plastic knitting needles, an upholstery attachment for your vacuum cleaner. items that it might be cheap to mass produce but the demand at any given moment is rather low so your local stores don't carry them, items that it's a pain in the ass to send away for. From there you can move to the simple items the stores do carry so you can save yourself a trip. Why get your cheap plastic crap form china when you'll be able to print it at home for the cost of the plastic, you don't NEED 600 a minute.

Re:Speed... not. (1)

bmo (77928) | about 2 years ago | (#42258239)

>Speed is nice but not the goal, lowing the cost of production would be ideal.

Speed is always a goal. Time is money. Cost is amortized over the number of parts you make. Your fixed costs of equipment, power, people, infrastructure, etc, do not go away. The more pieces you can make in a certain amount of time decreases the cost per piece.

>Why get your cheap plastic crap form china when you'll be able to print it at home for the cost of the plastic, you don't NEED 600 a minute.

Because a "do everything" printer that makes useful items (because useful items are a combination of materials, not just plastic) is expensive and power hungry. You can buy sintered metal printers, sure, but you don't want to be manufacturing your flatware with a machine in the basement that costs $100,000 plus the heat treating of the output. "The cost of the plastic" ignores the cost of the machine and the power needed to run the machine. This stuff doesn't work by magic, and I see arguments like yours that throw out "inconvenient facts" like machine costs all the time. And you just did it here.

You are *never* going to make a salad fork cheaper at home than some guy in a factory that has a power press. Ever. Because of efficiencies of scale.

--
BMO

Re:Speed... not. (1)

PIC16F628 (1815754) | about 2 years ago | (#42258591)

Think of a home laser/inkjet printer. Did people say that printers are useless and will cost more to print than printing presses and therefore a home printer is useless?

Re:Speed... not. (1)

bmo (77928) | about 2 years ago | (#42259095)

The cost per page for an inkjet printed document is orders of magnitude more expensive than a page from Joe's Offset Printing Shop.

You pay for the convenience. It's certainly not cheaper. It's especially cheaper to print with gold leaf than it is to print with inkjet ink from HP. It's cheaper to email your digital photos to a professional developer and get prints than it is to do photo prints at home. Consumer level equipment is expensive and inefficient per unit.

Everyone is so enamoured of the Star-Trek fantasy of replicators but they don't seem to realize that we're nowhere near that fantasy, and the reality is that until we have some really big breakthroughs in physics, we're not going to see a sintered metal salad fork less expensive than one you can get from someone who owns a power press. And costs are just waved away as if they don't matter.

Costs matter.

Rapid prototyping is great for demos and demo tooling and one-offs and art, where you might be able to recoup your costs or the alternatives are more expensive. Some sintered metal tooling applications are even suitable for short production runs.

But the example given by the other guy "why order cheap plastic stuff from China when you can just print it" is just nuts and ignores fixed costs and low production rates. If a rapid prototyping machine costs you $100/hr just to keep it around taking up space, you're not going to be printing salad forks for your lunch.

--
BMO

Re:Speed... not. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42260121)

Well if a machine costs too much just to keep it yes, it is a problem, but you have to think this a bit further.
Let's say we have 5 manufacturing facilities, which make products A to E. One facility makes one thing. Now they do it and then the stuff is put in a warehouse and then shipped to a store and then at some point someone buys it. You have to do a lot of that stuff, because the tools do not convert to other things very well. But when there's no demand for that stuff, then the production is run slow or stopped all together.

If those facilities had 3d printing, even at much slower speeds, you suddenly have x amount of manufacturing "facilities" and you can change the product on demand. You could directly produce let's say 50 different products in those facilities and switch it on-the-fly.

Sure there are lots of stuff that there's always as much demand as can be produced (especially with 3d printing), but many, many stuff is such, that instead of keeping the crap in storage waiting for someone to pick it up, you could produce it from the order and send it directly to the one ordering the stuff.

Yes at this point it is still not all that realistic, the costs are way too high, but once the materials and machines get cheaper(and better), and some patents expire (i'm saying it could be possible in near future), it's a perfectly working solution for many products. Those salad forks do not go in that category, but more complicated stuff do (and yet not too complicated). For example, instead of building a DTV receiver box from 1000 and 1 parts, you could print the case, board, and many of the electronic parts at one go, and then add the processor module. You'd have 1 + parts in the processor module to deal with. Normally doing that would reguire a lot of operations for each part. That way you can actually save time with 3d printing.

Re:Speed... not. (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 2 years ago | (#42259205)

well, you brought up the metal parts when someone said it's nice for plastic parts.

it's fun for custom plastic things. I printed up some cd/dvd stands the other day. and a stand for a GUS I like to keep on display. for that type of thing it's fun. or ass-vases you simply can't buy. of course then there's certain objects that you can't structurally injection mold, plenty of fun pieces are just plastic or the metal parts can be acquired otherwise.

home printers are fun hobby machines right now - they're money and time savers for things you don't need in the first place. kinda like most things around the house. but give it 20 years and those inkjet style multiple material 3d printers are going to come down in cost and start being real cheap - then you can print a shoe that's usable.

though if you had a metal printer and were planning to make 1000 forks.. you'd use the printer to print a press, no?

Re:Speed... not. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42260387)

Wake me when a 3D printer can output something as simple as a pen clip at 600/minute (which is what you get out of a 30 year old press).

What is the setup cost for a run on such a machine though? How much would that impact the per item cost if you only needed a 1000 copies, or a 100 copies?

There is a continuum of production from the one-off to the mass production of many thousands or more. The two ends of the continuum have almost always used vastly different techniques, and this company doesn't look like it is planning on covering the whole scale any time soon. But such methods will become more viable for larger and larger runs, probably not to the top, but will encroach on stuff covered by smaller production machine shops.

Best thing short of (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42258075)

Best thing short of owning a Replicator from Star Trek!!!!

I can't wait till you can dump trash into one side of it and get useful objects out of the other side...

Wrong video (1)

Animats (122034) | about 2 years ago | (#42258167)

The Forbes article plays a video from some cooking show. With a player with no stop button.

There are other 3D printing service providers. Autodesk has a list. [autodesk.com] Autodesk itself also does some 3D printing as a sideline. They're more interested in selling the CAD tools for designing parts. Their printing service providers are more oriented towards working parts than decorative objects.

Commercial 3D printing (1)

ledow (319597) | about 2 years ago | (#42259295)

Commercial "3D printing" has existed forever, or at least the equivalent ("here's the money, here's the model, make me X number of them"). What technology is used to do it is really quite inconsequential - current 3D printing really doesn't add any value to the process beyond more conventional techniques.

The attractive feature of actual 3D printing is that people can do it themselves. Buy a bag of nylon, load it into the machine, press out all the little play-figures you want from designs pulled from the Internet. Do it properly and, within a few years and instead loading 4 packs of nylon, you could even have them pre-coloured.

You could then literally destroy the toy-making (Lego!), Christmas-ornament-making, sculpture, board-games and other industries overnight if you wanted. That's the *interesting* bit about 3D printing. For years I've been able to supply a company a 3D model and have them make it in whatever materials and even paint it for me. That's never been a problem. Cost has, and the available skill and equipment (like this article - the equipment is specialist and unlikely to be able to be operated by an ordinary person with no training), but not the actual making a model of anything you can design on a computer.

Home 3D printing will drastically reduce the cost of such things, though, drastically reduce the cost of plastic items of all kinds (e.g. board games, role-playing games, Christmas cracker trinkets, even casing for embedded boards, etc.).

And like with 2D printing and 2D scanning, we could all end up with a device in the back-bedroom and just "knock up" a quick copy of, say, a key, or a toy for the kids, or a cup.

The interesting part isn't massive machines in commercial use, it's tiny machines in home use. 50 years ago nobody had a computer, now we all have them (probably several). 50 years ago, nobody could get their books printed without going to a printer, now we can all run off something on a device cheaper than a book costs to buy (if you buy the cheap rubbish). 100 years ago, businesses had to PAY people to wander around London with an accurate watch, calibrated to the Greenwich clock, and would subscribe to a service where that person would come back each week and tell them the time.

Advances in basic, cheap 3D scanning and printing, I'm interested in. Large companies being able to produce McDonald's toys (which have been around for decades), I'm not.

Give a hardware hacker a year and they could knock up a 3D scanner that formed a 3D model on the computer, with coloured textures for the outside "skin". Give them a year and they could knock up a 3D printer that might be able to come close to reproducing that model in plastic, with colourations on the outside approximating those in the model.

Make those devices cheap, reliable, as easy to use as a printer (i.e. not millimetre-vital calibration and building) and of half-decent quality, that you can just place an original model inside and pour nylon powder into and get a copy model out the other end and you'll make a fortune. That's what I class as the modern phrase of "3D printing", not something we could do for the last 30 years on commercial scales.

Open source aircraft (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42259483)

Waiting not very patiently for the first open source sport aircraft printable kit plane.

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