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What's Holding Back 3-D Printing

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the my-3-D-glasses-don't-seem-to-help dept.

Software 348

An anonymous reader writes "An article at MIT's Technology Review makes the case that the complexity of the design tools behind 3-D printing are what's holding it back from widespread adoption. Many of the devices are indeed prohibitively expensive, but the inability for your average person — or even your average tech hobbyist — to pick it up and start experimenting is an even bigger obstacle. 'That means software innovation could be more important to 3-D printing than gradual improvements in the underlying technology for shaping objects. That technology is already 30 years old and is widely used in industry to create prototypes, molds, and, in some cases, parts for airplanes. ... Although additive manufacturing allows for designs that can't be made easily in any other way — such as complex shapes with internal cavities — so far, companies have mostly used 3-D printing to create prototypes or models of familiar products.'"

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Not enough publicity (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43571737)

Tech sites like Slashdot are ignoring innovations like 3D printing, bitcoin, Raspberry Pi.

Re:Not enough publicity (5, Insightful)

sanman2 (928866) | about a year ago | (#43571787)

What rubbish - with everyone and his brother being a programmer nowadays, anything new always ends up with a call to develop more software for it. When all you have is a hammer, then every problem is made to look like a nail. Software is most certainly not the bottleneck. There are plenty of 3D modeling programs out there, and a number of them have features for solid modeling.

The real hurdle to 3D printing is in being able to produce parts that don't look like rejects from the Lego factory. High-end 3D printers that can produce high-quality objects command an astronomical price. Software is the least of the problem here.

Re:Not enough publicity (4, Insightful)

rudy_wayne (414635) | about a year ago | (#43571845)

What rubbish - with everyone and his brother being a programmer nowadays, anything new always ends up with a call to develop more software for it. When all you have is a hammer, then every problem is made to look like a nail. Software is most certainly not the bottleneck. There are plenty of 3D modeling programs out there,

Although I agree that 3D printers that can do something really useful are still too expensive, dismissing software is just plain wrong. If you think that software isn't a big part of the problem, then you've never used 3D modeling software.

The idea that anyone can design a 3D item as easily as drawing a picture in Microsoft Paint (or GIMP) is a fantasy that may never become a reality. If you've ever actually used 3D modelling software, you understand this.

Re:Not enough publicity (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about a year ago | (#43571925)

The idea that anyone can design a 3D item as easily as drawing a picture in Microsoft Paint (or GIMP) is a fantasy that may never become a reality.

Who said anything about designing? It's not a requirement for most potential consumers. Cost aside (as that changes with volume and advancements in tech), all a home user would need is either a 3D handheld scanner, or ability to download the file and print the object. The uses are mainly utilitarian replacing the need to purchase any cheap Chinese plastic crap such as coat hangers, hooks, door stops, brackets, broom handles, or other such crap. Another use would be for children as an educational instrument. Being able to print dinosaurs bones, human bones, or other anatomically correct parts such as the brain, heart, eye, and ear for study. For the arts and craft world, the possibilities are endless. I know a few people that would use them to make moldings for green sand castings.

Re:Not enough publicity (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43572021)

Why does New York have so many niggers while San Francisco has so many faggots?
San Francisco had first choice.

Re:Not enough publicity (2)

sd4f (1891894) | about a year ago | (#43572315)

3D modelling software i've used lets you import bitmap pictures.

I'm no cad expert, but i use it a fair bit as a mechanical engineer, and the basic idea behind it is, you can draw things, but CAD software is so much more than just drawing, most useful programs include or offer packages for finite element analysis with particles, stress, displacement and heat transfer, or motion studies. So for me, the software, while not always incredibly intuitive to use, it's brilliant because it does other things which i wouldn't be able to do without a computer.

The 3D printing crowd are probably less interested in this sort of stuff, they just want to draw something, make it, then using a process of trial and error, make a model 2 if need be. Whereas the current procedure is all that way because it just attached itself to the CNC environment style of workflow, where making is expensive, and you optimise as much as possible, before making it. FEA is something which, also is not straight forward to teach, without going through the underpinning theory, it's very easy to get wrong results.

Re:Not enough publicity (4, Insightful)

Jeremi (14640) | about a year ago | (#43571895)

The real hurdle to 3D printing is in being able to produce parts that don't look like rejects from the Lego factory.

The real issue is that most people just don't need custom parts. Most widgets that are useful are already available at a very good price at the local hardware store.

Custom part fabrication is handy for well-heeled tinkerers, but most people aren't tinkerers or well-heeled.

Come out with a 3D food printer, on the other hand, that will probably sell. ;)

Re:Not enough publicity (2)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about a year ago | (#43572085)

Come out with a 3D food printer, on the other hand, that will probably sell. ;)

There are 3d food printers. However, they are limited to single materials they can extrude (icing is popular, I think some cake shops use 3d icing printers).

And that, I suspect, is the real limitation. Consumer-level 3d printers are not "replicators". They are rapid prototyping units for making crude plastic models. Very few people need to make enough crude plastic models to justify buying and learning to use a 3d printer. Same reason most people aren't going to buy an arduino kit instead of a mass produced piece of cheap electronics.

When you can buy something that produces (and recycles) mixed metal/plastic/etc pieces from online catalogues at a push of a button, then it'll be revolutionary.

(Or yes, when a food printer can create multiple food stuffs, even just the processed foods, rather than just a single ingredient, then you will see massive sales. Hell, look at the sales of bread makers, icecream makers, popcorn cookers, I doubt the 3d food printer would have to do too make foods to find a market. Just more than icing.)

Re:Not enough publicity (2)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#43572231)

The real issue is that most people just don't need custom parts.

Especially when the only custom parts the printers can make look like cheap plastic. What can you do with that, really?

Re:Not enough publicity (1)

Garridan (597129) | about a year ago | (#43572313)

Plastic is for throwing away! You can throw away your poor resolution printed cheap plastic parts! Just like 1970, but DIY and crappier!

Re:Not enough publicity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43572379)

No, I agree with the parent. I see 3D printed things (everything from parts to toys) from makerbots on a daily basis in my lab and we would be *lucky* if they looked as good as something rejected from a Lego factory. I've seen all kinds of disfigured things come out of those printers. One guy left a model to print overnight. The next morning he came in to find the machine had literally torn itself apart, and the model was nothing more than shapeless blob. The limitation here is *solely* printing technology. The problem is, there is too much focus on producing a cheap 3D printer ($2000 is amazingly cheap considering what you would like it to do). Instead with need a *high quality* 3D printer, that may be able to fit only tiny objects, or that may require manual assembly of parts, or that may only be able to print slices, but whatever it does, it needs to be *high quality*. I would buy one of those in an instant and junk the makerbots.

Re:Not enough publicity (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year ago | (#43572441)

What rubbish - with everyone and his brother being a programmer nowadays,

Isn't the correct term to use actually "brogrammer"?
(another way of putting it: one would think that quantity doesn't necessary equate to quality).

There are plenty of 3D modeling programs out there, and a number of them have features for solid modeling.

Any detail on the topic, especially if the said application is open source, will be highly appreciated ('m not necessary lazy - at least not on the wrong side of the word - except that the missus wants the home sparkling clean).

For me... It's the cost of good printers (5, Insightful)

Karmashock (2415832) | about a year ago | (#43571741)

I don't really want a reprap or similar printer. The print quality is too low. And the cost of the high end machines is prohibitive.

Re:For me... It's the cost of good printers (5, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#43571781)

I don't really want a reprap or similar printer. The print quality is too low.

The quality is improving. If you haven't checked out a 3D printer in the last year, you might be surprised. But I think TFA is wrong. The design tools are not what is holding back 3D printing. My son is in third grade, and he used a CAD program to design some parts for his science project. My daughter has designed and printed furniture for her dollhouse. It is not hard.

What is keeping 3D printing from being more of a hobbyist niche, is that most people just don't have any compelling need for random plastic parts. So far there is no killer app.

Re:For me... It's the cost of good printers (2)

Karmashock (2415832) | about a year ago | (#43571793)

Random plastic parts perhaps but what about fully assembled plastic devices that have servo and circuit mounts?

You could very easily download a blueprint, buy an inexpensive circuit kit, and then install part 1 into part 2 to get nearly anything.

For that you need higher resolution printing machines.

The higher end ones for example can have fully assembled moving parts Reprap doesn't give you that. The resolution is too low. Warping occurs whenever you try to make something large. High end machines don't warp when you make larger objects.

Re:For me... It's the cost of good printers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43572133)

>The higher end ones for example can have fully assembled moving parts Reprap doesn't give you that. The resolution is too low. Warping occurs whenever you try to make something large. High end machines don't warp when you make larger objects.

...so in your example as well the problem is the cost of good printers. There's no killer use available yet for the low-end printers so far, and the cost of the high-end ones price them out of being useful except in niche circumstances. That is probably why they haven't worked out.

Re:For me... It's the cost of good printers (2)

lister king of smeg (2481612) | about a year ago | (#43571849)

That will probably be fixed with when laser sintering printer are made easily available like a reprap is now. Then you will be able to print random metal bits which is a much more appealing option. Also your average person knows nothing about the existing 3d printers. I showed a non geek friend of mine the site for the makerbot and reprap after I told her I was think about building a 3d printer. She thought that it was amazing literally comparing to magic, (ironically her first though was was oh no someone could make a gun with that which had been discussed here on slashdot because people had done just that) maybe we will soon reach the point were our own technology appears to be magic to our own people. Scientists will be diviners, and Maker conjurers, and Hackers will be wizard. Hell computers are already magical black boxes to most of my friends.

Re:For me... It's the cost of good printers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43572035)

Hell computers are already magical black boxes to most of my friends.

Oh, so your friends are easily impressed simpletons.

I'm sorry :-(

You can always make new ones.

Re: For me... It's the cost of good printers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43572393)

The air, how is the air up there on your horse?

Re:For me... It's the cost of good printers (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | about a year ago | (#43572201)

I have looked at them very recently

5 grand for a wobbly frame that prints out a rough toy figure in mere hours that requires carving for cleanup

we use professional printing services for work, if we want to take them out for show that 3 grand MODEL gets filled and sanded cause even its not of any acceptable quality if you want to present it to the ignorant public, and jesus, dont even think about stressing it in the slightest, even though it wont fit cause its fractions of a degree wrapped

Re:For me... It's the cost of good printers (4, Funny)

BryanL (93656) | about a year ago | (#43572381)

I thought printable guns were going to be the killer app.

What's holding back 3-D printing? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43571747)

What's holding back 3-D printing is that it's only good for making plastic crap.

Doing something useful, like replicating a new carburetor for my 30-year-old roto-tiller, is more difficult and more expensive.

Re:What's holding back 3-D printing? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43571775)

What's holding back 3-D printing is that it's only good for making plastic crap.

That's not what's holding it back. That's the consequence of it being held back. You're too dumb to tell cause and effect apart because your mother and father are also brother and sister.

Re:What's holding back 3-D printing? (1)

19thNervousBreakdown (768619) | about a year ago | (#43571825)

I don't think that's even possible.

Re:What's holding back 3-D printing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43572431)

This couple's 4 kids [wikipedia.org] would disagree--except that three of the kids are mutants that can't speak or tie their shoes.

Re:What's holding back 3-D printing? (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year ago | (#43571843)

Printing plastic and printing metal is completely different. And I do not really see the latter being possible in the same extent.
3D printing is printing plastic crap, that is not not going to change.

And sure, 3D printing something out of some type of metal seems realistic, but metal is a whole lot more complicated than plastic. When you forge something metal many many factors go into the final product and the exact type of metal and exact formulae are important. There are thousands of different types of steel, and thousands of different ways to go about forging something out of them.

Re:What's holding back 3-D printing? (2)

cheesybagel (670288) | about a year ago | (#43572443)

It is perfectly possible and it is being done now. You use metal powder sintering. The machines are still a helluva expensive though.

Re:What's holding back 3-D printing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43572213)

Also nanobots, need lots of self replicating robots to print massive amounts of spoo i mean grey goo everywhere =)

Patents! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43571751)

Patents will kill 3D printing before it ever goes "mainstream". You will NEVER go to best buy to pick up a new 3D printer cartridge. We are too stupid as a civilization to not kill this technology in the crib.

Re:Patents! (1)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | about a year ago | (#43571771)

Good thing you can just print it at Staples [singularityhub.com] for pittance

cost and material properties (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43571753)

try printing anything with some volume to it and it gets expensive real fast.

the properties of the materials are not as good as what is available with subtractive mfg.

Re:cost and material properties (1)

lister king of smeg (2481612) | about a year ago | (#43571853)

the supply will increase and the price will drop when copying becomes more mainstream do to demand.

Re:cost and material properties (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43572059)

do to demand

Oh, that must be retard-speak for "due to demand".do to demand.

How do you semi-literate types find this site anyway? Wouldn't you rather be on a nice shiny Facebook page or something? You'd like that better. It's much more suitable for the dumb masses.

Re:cost and material properties (2, Insightful)

flayzernax (1060680) | about a year ago | (#43572221)

I detect internet rage from an anonymous individual with an unknown UID... if your going to tell people to get off your lawn at least wave your beard tangled cane in their faces and let them know who you are.

Re:cost and material properties (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43572269)

"if your going to tell..."
The dumbasses in this thread are endless...

Because it's pretty useless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43571783)

Really. What am I supposed to do with this thing? All the stuff people sell from these devices are little trinkets and jewelry. I don't need a 3D printer to get that kind of stuff cheaper. I thought I'd see this used more to make custom enclosures for projects, but I haven't seen much of that.

Re:Because it's pretty useless (2)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year ago | (#43571867)

That is the thing. How hard is it to just make a mould to mass produce regular plastic stuff.
Really, it is going to take the same effort to design an object to be printed as it would take to make a mould to more easily and cheaply mass produce something with normal materials. The only benefit 3D printing has is potentially one off custom stuff. But how many people actually want an action figure of themselves; which is the only use case I have heard thus far that seems legitimate.

cheap, accessible, public-facing (1)

Kevin Fishburne (1296859) | about a year ago | (#43571789)

$299 price point for a basic one (get them later with the cartridge refills just like with inkjets), stock them at Best Buy and make a TV commercial showing all the cool shit you can print. That's how it normally works, right?

Nonsense (3, Interesting)

arpad1 (458649) | about a year ago | (#43571795)

What's holding back 3-D printing is that there's hardly anything worthwhile to be done with it.

Other then printing an AR-15 lower receiver or magazines what can you do with a 3-D printer that's worth the bother?

Re:Nonsense (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year ago | (#43571889)

Which is why they will never be allowed to go mainstream. There is not a single country on Earth that would be ok with allowing its citizens to have the ability to produce weapons.

Re:Nonsense (1)

sgrover (1167171) | about a year ago | (#43571933)

If you follow that logic, then simple milling machines would be outlawed too. After all, with a milling machine one could make a gun from plastic just as easily as metal. The genie is out of the bottle and there is no way to put it back in with regards to 3D Printing, and even printing a gun. But, personal responsibility still applies - if you actually print a gun and then use it illicitly, you are still subject to all the laws involved. While you are doing that, 99.9% of the others who own 3D Printers will continue their lives and likely never have a need to print a gun.

Re:Nonsense (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year ago | (#43571975)

Well, like milling machines, as long as they cost 500K and years of experience to use they will not have to outlaw it.

But it will never be a product that is hooked up to your personal desktop, where little billy (after he is finished printing out his assignment), loading up a underground website and prints off a AK47 with the click of the button.

Re:Nonsense (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43572029)

But it will never be a product that is hooked up to your personal desktop, where little billy (after he is finished printing out his assignment), loading up a underground website and prints off a AK47 with the click of the button.

that's because that's something that can literally never happen (barring the invention of some kind of 3D printer that prints steel)

the only thing you could really 3D print for an AK would be the furniture, that's even less useful than printing a shitty plastic AR lower.

Re:Nonsense (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#43572067)

Well, like milling machines, as long as they cost 500K and years of experience to use they will not have to outlaw it.

Milling machines cost no where near $500k. You can get them for a thousand times less than that. I bought my first vertical mill for about $400. You can buy a CNC mill for $880. [sherline.com] You don't need CNC capability to make a gun, but it will make it easier.

These mills may be small, but they are not toys. With the exception of the size of the workpiece, they can do anything that big iron can do.

Re:Nonsense (1)

dbIII (701233) | about a year ago | (#43572095)

There's very cheap CNC hobby mills that can take G-code (not much harder to code in than LOGO) now. I don't think there's ever been any CNC mills that cost half a million apart from prototypes, but I get your point. Full scale industrial multi-axis milling machines can be bought second hand for less than the price of the cheapest new car, or for another option there's a very cool series of books by "Tubal Cain" on how to build your own industrial workshop (mini-foundry, lathe, mill and attachments for gear cutting etc). The price of entry is a lot of time for all of these things, but not really "years of experience" for many tasks.

Re:Nonsense (1)

bigtreeman (565428) | about a year ago | (#43572403)

Put your 2nd hand mill into a big room, level it, set up power, comms, vacuum, controllers, tool changer, bits, start designing your models, wow just spent $$$$big

Re:Nonsense (1)

amiga3D (567632) | about a year ago | (#43572099)

Never say never. 10 years down the road who knows where this technology could be. I believe that it will only get better and cheaper.

Re:Nonsense (1)

joshki (152061) | about a year ago | (#43571947)

Which is why they will never be allowed to go mainstream. There is not a single country on Earth that would be ok with allowing its citizens to have the ability to produce weapons.

If that were the case, why do they allow mills and lathes? Anyone can make a functional weapon with a mill and a lathe -- and ironically enough, a 3d printer can make weapon parts but cannot make a complete weapon. You still need the machine tools to make things like barrels that cannot (and never will) be made on a 3d printer.

Plenty of hobby gunmakers (1)

dbIII (701233) | about a year ago | (#43572117)

There's plenty of hobby gun makers around. I used to work with a guy that tested brass tubing, and he made some to the rejects into cartridges for his one inch smoothbore "Brown Bess" lookalike that he had built as a breech loader, even if it looked like a musket. He had to get a different gun licence to the usual but the Australian government didn't have any problems with him making it and owning it.

Re:Nonsense (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about a year ago | (#43572261)

Which is why they will never be allowed to go mainstream. There is not a single country on Earth that would be ok with allowing its citizens to have the ability to produce weapons.

Once upon a time, not too long ago, encryption was classified as a munition too.

Re:Nonsense (1)

Cyberax (705495) | about a year ago | (#43572363)

You are a stupid gun nut, aren't you? Producing and/or obtaining weapons is easy with existing technologies. And contrary to your delirium, most governments are not a single-willed entity focused on depraving people of their precious guns.

Re:Nonsense (1)

meglon (1001833) | about a year ago | (#43572429)

No.

You can make a zipgun out of a ball point pen. Everyone has the ability to make a weapon; most people simply don't have the need, desire, or psychosis to do so.... and admittedly, many don't have the imagination for it either.

Re:Nonsense (4, Interesting)

evil_aaronm (671521) | about a year ago | (#43571903)

I hesitate to say, "You lack imagination." It's too confrontational for my tastes. However, if I had a quality 3D printer, capable of turning out durable pieces, I'd have almost no end of things I'd create: parts for robotics; automated pan-tilt assemblies; custom gears; custom servo horns; project cases for gadgets I've built; toys for my granddaughter; etc. As it is, I cut and drill pieces from stock plastic, and it's a pain in comparison to custom forming things from a CAD drawing.

Re:Nonsense (1)

MarkvW (1037596) | about a year ago | (#43572205)

There is a mountain of money to be made in the plans. That's the future. It's just a matter of time.

Re:Nonsense (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43571963)

It's not that nothing worthwhile can be done with it, it's that most people don't have the need to print that many things.

I've often thought about buying a 3d printer--I have the money and think it's cool. However, what would I do with it?

Do I really need to print AR-15s every week or month? For that money I could buy one, along with whatever else I might want.

The problem is that most people do not need to print an endless supply of physical goods, regardless of their quality, and the things they might need are so intricate and idiosyncratic (think smartphones, not plastic pieces) that 3d printing isn't really the solution.

What I really see taking off are things like 3d scanners and Shapeways, maybe local 3d printers in stores or co-ops, so that if people want something made they can have it done. This isn't really inconsistent with the article in some ways, I suppose, in that what's keeping people back is the design end. However, I don't think that once they figure out how to design things easily they'll just start buying printers left and right--they might be sending the designs elsewhere, though.

Maybe 3d printers will eventually become small enough and cheap enough that people will just have them around, just in case--sort of like a drill press or something like that. They may also facilitate viable small-scale local manufacturing. But I don't see them being as ubiquitous as paper printers have been (in the past if not the future), because although people do communicate voluminously, and historically have needed paper for that, they generally don't need idiosyncratic plastic or metal objects in volume.

Re:Nonsense (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43572147)

most people don't have a drill press.

Re:Nonsense (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43572193)

Other then printing an AR-15 lower receiver or magazines what can you do with a 3-D printer that's worth the bother?

Its significantly harder to make an inferior gun via additive manufacturing techniques than via conventional machine shop techniques. When you're talking open-source equipment such as a Reprap, it's pretty much a fantasy via additive manufacturing.

I think a significant contingent of geeks who think you can easily build a Reprap and click "print" and then walk away as your gun components are made have never built a 3D printer, and in most cases haven't even spent much time even printing on hobbyist-grade filament printers built by a professional. The state of the art still sucks (though it is and will continue to get better). They're far from flawless, easy for a casual user to use devices.

If your goal is the practical manufacture of a gun for yourself 3D printing isn't the way to do it. The ability to hobby-manufacture a gun is hardly a disruptive new capability put into the hands of the public only now that there are hobbyist 3D printers as some people would believe.

Someday almost for certain this will change, given enough time. However right now there just _isn't_ much that can be done with a 3D printer that is worth the bother, other than tinkering. When the Visicalc-equivalent for 3D printing comes along then this will change.

Re:Nonsense (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about a year ago | (#43572255)

Other then printing an AR-15 lower receiver or magazines what can you do with a 3-D printer that's worth the bother?

I drive a 14 year old car. I am far from poor, I drive it because there hasn't really been another vehicle that has appealed to me since. My driver's side door no longer opens from the outside because a plastic part snapped off inside the door itself. It is actually a common failure on these vehicles. Right now I have to go hunt through junk-yards to find an (aged) replacement part. A 3D printer (and the right 3D cad file) would allow me to print a replacement doohickey and fix my door without worrying about finding an obscure replacement part.

Sure, that's an anecdote, but wanting to replacing small broken plastic parts is not that uncommon, especially when you widen the scope from old cars to everything - houses, bikes, laptops, appliances, etc.

it's simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43571809)

The software. Do these things even come in working order? Or do I need some 3rd party software...that costs a grand? I just dont have the time to figure it all out....so who cares?

Easy: because it's stupid (1)

Cyberax (705495) | about a year ago | (#43571821)

Really, 3D printing is a new fad but the amount of useful stuff one could do with it is pretty small. Usually, people say "my own Lego set" and "plastic toys". And that's about it.

Call me when 3D printers learn to print with metal.

Re:Easy: because it's stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43571837)

I remember when it started, almost 30 years ago. That's how old 3D Systems (company) is. Maybe the Second Amendment folk is finally their breakthrough market.

Cost of the raw materials (3, Interesting)

robbak (775424) | about a year ago | (#43571827)

As long as the raw materials are priced in tens of dollars per kilogram, printing out random stuff is always going to be too expensive. Really, it is bulk plastic. It should be priced nearer 40 kilograms per dollar than 40 dollars per kilogram.

Re:Cost of the raw materials (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43572033)

E=mc^2
m=E/c^2

Problem not fully solved yet so no replicators.

Re:Cost of the raw materials (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43572163)

You don't get it. Bulk plastic can be had very cheaply. Filament (extruded bulk plastic) that these machines can use costs orders of magnitude more for no reason other than squeezing profit.

Re:Cost of the raw materials (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43572321)

You don't get it. Bulk plastic can be had very cheaply. Filament (extruded bulk plastic) that these machines can use costs orders of magnitude more for no reason other than squeezing profit.

Actually that is and was easy to "get", the great leap will be moving past the "relatively simple" process of what is essentially modelling in plastic a layer at a time to "any mass" into input and generating specifically constructed new mass at the atomic level upwards with molecular mapping controls to a completed product. Now that is what I really wish I could "get" but I could only put it in a relatively simplified.notation for that I unfortunately don't have the background or the mind to "get it". Now, by chance to you "get it"? If you do, please replicate me a replicator and send it over.

Re:Cost of the raw materials (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43572355)

Not sure I "get" what you're "getting" at...

Re:Cost of the raw materials (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43572421)

As yet undiscovered science and technology that only "exists" in SciFi with such things as the replicator [wikipedia.org] from the various StarTrek series. Note the "theory" section at that link. The kind of modelling using methods of mapping with the currently available 3D printers is in a way a precursor to developing a molecular 3D printer later, but still is less of a difference between it and the potential real thing as their is between a model spaceship and the "real thing".

The replicator is what enables the Federation to pretty much ignore money as pretty much anything they need that they can conceive and design or already have "recorded" into their computers they can "simply" convert one form of mass to another. Now, don't you think that would relieve the vast majority of profiteering such as I originally responded to here? 3D printers are one of the many steps towards the possibility of a replicator, but then so was the atom bomb.

Apologies for the slow reply but it seems I am getting hassled by the AC number of posts cap. And no, I am never going to sign up.

There you go (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43571855)

It's over. Can we please something else to hype now? Asteroid mining has maybe a few more months left in it before it becomes obvious to even the most delusional sci-fi geek that it will never happen.

Re:There you go (1)

amiga3D (567632) | about a year ago | (#43572115)

I know. It's like the preposterous idea of home computers. That will never happen.

Re:There you go (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43572151)

Yes, processing information is JUST LIKE handling matter! That's why we all have our personal 747s, because computers from 1969 were so big!

See how stupid your argument is?

Design software comptence vs IP (1)

macraig (621737) | about a year ago | (#43571875)

General competence in use of 3D design software is only critical to the ubiquity of 3D printing because everything that someone might wish to construct will be affected by intellectual property law: if someone else was granted a patent or copyright, then they can demand payment for use of it. Since especially at this stage that payment demand is likely to be unreasonable and excessive, the average person whose 3D printing needs are personal and not entrepreneurial has two choices: either pay the excessive IP demand or simply do without (or find some other traditional means of meeting the need). Most people are likely to choose the latter, at least for the time being.

If, on the other hand, a small few who are highly competent in use of the design software were to create a large body of fully open-sourced designs, or at least ones priced reasonably and fairly, then the vast majority of people interested in 3D printing could simply use those designs rather than being forced achieve that same competence and each create their own designs... and potentially reinventing the wheel repeatedly in the process.

The way this process actually plays out won't be ideal by anyone's ideology. It will be a series of rather ugly compromises that, like most everything else, will wind up disproportionally benefiting a minority, but even that minority won't benefit as much as they'd like.

Cheap manufactured goods (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43571897)

Manufactured goods are just too cheap. Compare and contrast this with the computer revolution. With an early home computer and some programming knowledge, you could write a word processor, a game, music software, unusual "demo" art, or any number of other things that had never existed before.

With a 3-d printer, you can make inferior plastic versions of things that already exist.

OK, you could make cool demo art with a 3-d printer too. There's some potential there. Of course the problem with that is that my house is already full of... cheap manufactured goods. If I don't like a demo on my PC, I delete it. If I don't like a sculpture, I have to recycle it or put it in a landfill or something, and I paid money for that plastic.

In short, the 3-d printer has the potential to meet a need that's already being fulfilled; but to do so in a way that's less convenient, more expensive, and less durable.

Not simple enough for the average consumer. (1)

Nyder (754090) | about a year ago | (#43571901)

When they make a unit that requires very little, other then inputting what you want printed and putting materials in it, then it probably won't get that widespread adoption that the big corporations think is necessary to make a profit.

And if you all you can think of as uses for it is to make legos and toys, then I'm sorry for you. I can think of hundreds of useful things it can print for around the home. And even more for the home hobbyist.

Materials cost, materials cost, materials cost (1)

109 97 116 116 (191581) | about a year ago | (#43571905)

The cost of materials is the real barrier to entry for total cost of ownership for the best technologies like SLM/SLS (Selective Laser Melting or Selective Laser Sintering) Even though many of the raw materials base products are low cost like glass filled nylons, steels, etc, the powder mesh requirements are so small that production methods to make these raw materials into proper powder mesh dimensions is the real issue. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4odUhDjKHzo [youtube.com]

Materials cost and specialty status is also the barrier to other technologies like polyjet and SLA where the polymer materials are UV cured and require high tech chemical production plants to make the raw materials. Polyjet also has a high amount of waste materials used in a catch can to keep it's print heads clear throughout it's build process and so far this resin is not reusable. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nlq4Nm254fM [youtube.com]

Another factor is cost to operate. Some have calculated that to start up a large SLS machine filled with metallic powder including the energy to start up etc, it requires quite a large amount of capital to justify it. Upwards of $2500-$5000 depending on the material. Not to mention the machine itself that can cost upwards of $500,000 for a large SLM/SLA

Too slow, too expensive, too much like magic (1)

ka9dgx (72702) | about a year ago | (#43571907)

Extruder based 3d printers are far too slow, inconsistent, and expensive to recommend to anyone other than an enthusiast. You have to learn the 3d design software, slicer software, and then spend a few hundred hours getting to know your printer.

If you're building prototypes or something, they can be a useful alternative to subtractive machining. They can not be used to replace an existing plastic part without a really good 3d scanner, and far more tweaking than most people are willing to endure.

Some day non-trivial parts will emerge from these things in sub-workday time frames, without the need for constant nursing, but that's not here yet.

It's the Quality (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43571917)

The quality of the produced items is a long way from injection molding and likely will be for a long time, if not always. It's simply not possible to create something smooth, shiny, and strong like the latest iDevice using extruded plastics. Even after plenty of sanding and filing.

I've been using printed parts for mechanical mock-ups and prototypes for years. The tech has improved, but we always switch processes for delivery, and not for cost reasons.

Making your own Lego? Hardly. That would cost a fortune and probably wouldn't survive more than 3-4 (dis)assemblies.

I hope for a breakthrough butnim not holding my breath.

use minecraft (4, Interesting)

jcupitt65 (68879) | about a year ago | (#43571919)

A friend of a friend made this:

http://www.printcraft.org/ [printcraft.org]

Make something in minecraft on this (free) server and it emails you a 3D printer file of your object when you disconnect.

It's difficult to think in 3D (0)

purnima (243606) | about a year ago | (#43571923)

The notion that consumers will one day be able to customise 3D designs on their computer screen and print them at home is fanciful. Anyone who has tried to teach/learn three dimensional geometry can tell you that 3D hurts the brain. We don't even see in 3D. The retina is 2D and we have some vague conception of 3D. Close your eyes and consider for example the intersection of two ice cream cones. What does this look like? Is it ever an ice cream cone? Going beyond this, there are geometric phenomena in 3D that have no analog in 2D, which we don't naturally perceive, The problem is that we design in 2D, our mind's eye is 2D, our experiential perspective is 2D, and our design technology is 2D. Our perception of 3D are essentially some sort of projections of 3D Objects. It took painters centuries to even conceive of this. (Of course, you can train your 2D mind to design 3D objects , but basically you've got to be a specialist. For these designers, why would they choose 3D printing, it looks like a lathe tool to me but you are restricted to the material you can use. )

Re:It's difficult to think in 3D (1)

skywire (469351) | about a year ago | (#43572189)

You evidently have an optical or neurological deficit that prevents you from modelling your surroundings in 3D as most of us do. I'm sorry for you. But you should trust that we are truthfully reporting that our experiential perspective is 3D. We have no motive for deceiving you. The only points on which you are correct are those related to the problems of representing 3D scenes in 2D, as in painting and doing 3D design on flat screens, and those arise because our natural perspective is 3D, not 2D, so we are forced to project that onto a plane, or interpret and manipulate 2D projections on a screen that are intended to represent 3D scenes.

On A Daily Basis (1)

Greyfox (87712) | about a year ago | (#43571935)

We really just don't need that much plastic crap. I mean sure, you could print a replacement thirty-cent plastic O-Ring for your vacuum cleaner or something, but really you could have just driven to the hardware store and got one of those. I have seen some fairly nifty artistic uses for them, but it's just not something the average Joe needs to be able to do right now. Maybe when we get to the point where we can print organs with them and I can print a new liver every week, it might be a different story (And a body-zipper for easy organ access! Yeah!)

answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43571985)

-The hobby community is still using EXTRUSION-BASED PRINTERS. Absurd.
-Every-day users don't know CAD. How are they supposed to print something if they can't even design it?
-"Everything has been done". Seriously though - if there's something obvious, it's been built. 3d printing is mostly just good for prototyping. Existing manufacturing technologies can bring the price down for anything in quantity.

Acquisition of Skills Takes Time - lots of it (4, Informative)

BoRegardless (721219) | about a year ago | (#43571987)

Been using 3D solids for rapid prototyping new medical equipment for over 15 years.

Job shops can make your parts quickly and relatively inexpensively compared to other machining and hand working methods, so that part is OK for prototyping and functional parts that can stand being done in the limited rapid prototyping materials & processes available.

Skills need are the understanding of the design of physical parts with all the subtleties and the desire to learn to use a competant 3D solids modeling environment. You don't walk in to this expecting a familiarity with PowerPoint as enough skill to do the job.

Competent 3D solids software from the likes of SolidWorks, AutoCAD or other similar programs start at about $5,000 per seat and they don't become highly usable until you get near $10k. It easily takes 1000-2000 hours to become good at doing 3D modeling, assuming you are already familiar with design and 2D CAD.

There are 3D solids RP machines in half a dozen types and you can't afford to buy them for hobby uses. Stratysis laser sintering for Nylon, SS & Titanium type things cost more than a Ferrari, so forget it, unless you are Jay Leno.

Re:Acquisition of Skills Takes Time - RP Printers (1)

BoRegardless (721219) | about a year ago | (#43572007)

Hobbyist RP printers are just that. It is like the difference between a go-cart and a McLaren F1.

Each printer does only 1 or 2 material types, each with its own characteristics that can be good for some uses and not so good for others.

Soft elastomerics & elastomerics on hard plastic can be done on Objet machines and they are very useful for mocking up co-molded parts that would be produced by multi-shot injection molding later. They can look nearly like finished molded products.

Strong Nylon parts can be made in Stratysis laser sintering machines, but the layer thickness, dimensional accuracy and fuzzy surface of finished parts can result in a lot of cleanup hand work to get a decent part.

For snap fit parts there are some newer materials that act more like Polypropylene now, but there are still limits to judging "feel" from RP parts because the surface finish is not like molded parts at all.

No RP machine produces the equivalent of injection molded parts that I am aware of.

You have to dive into the real world and get hands on to be able to get familiar with and judge the real world conditions of the various RP materials to find out what you can and can not do.

Re:Acquisition of Skills Takes Time - TIME (1)

BoRegardless (721219) | about a year ago | (#43572049)

Once you get familiar with 3D solids and RP printers, what does it take to get a custom box with a lid and latch as someone above considered?

You have to model up at least 3 pieces and how the fit, hinge, lock and go together. Been there, done that and sometimes that is 10-20 hours if there are subtleties you must develop for sealing, locating, strength, draft & such.

Then you email the models to your contract job shop RP modeler. His guys evaluate the models and may let you know you have defects in the 3D model and ask you to fix them. More modeling. Then you send them off they quote and if it is shoe box sized, you pay by the cubic inch and machine time, so don't be surprised if the RP machine takes 8 hours for the parts and costs you $1000.

I personally would go to K-Mart, The Container Store or Home Depot & find a stock plastic box.

Re:Acquisition of Skills Takes Time - lots of it (1)

dbIII (701233) | about a year ago | (#43572073)

I've used AutoCAD since 1987 or 1988, and while the constructive solid modelling added since then is nice there are plenty of other things that can do it. Some of them are free. They are just different so need a bit of a learning curve, but if you don't know AutoCAD you'd get that anyway. Most people coming in wouldn't even know much about drafting so it's a steep learning curve for anything, and not necessarily any worse with the free or cheap alternatives. For the really involved stuff AutoCAD is useless alone anyway, and there's plenty of finite element analysis (for example) software around, some of which is free, and a nice fluffy GUI isn't going to save you once things get that involved so not necessarily harder to use in the long run than the expensive stuff. The bits you pay for are for working in groups on large projects.

It easily takes 1000-2000 hours to become good at doing 3D modeling

I don't dispute that above statement in any way, but I'd like to point out that there's plenty of good alternatives to AutoDesk's software that have sprung up over the years because not a lot has changed in the functionality of the software in year - and in the long run I doubt it would take any longer to get to be an expert in those others.

In the end the tool can't make you a master craftsman, and by the time you get good at it the choice between very similar tools doesn't matter. The funny thing is I used AutoCAD initially because it was the cheap and nasty option and the more professional tool required expensive hardware and an insane per seat cost (which AutoCAD now has, even for their nerfed light version).

It's not being held back ... (1)

dbIII (701233) | about a year ago | (#43572009)

It's not being held back, it just can't match the unrealistic hype that has grown around it.
The funny thing is the hype is along the lines of "flying car" impracticality instead of some of the utterly amazing things that are actually being done, especially with biological materials. It looks like printing working nerve cells is not far off which creates medical possibilities that the magazine and blog writers pushing the hype have not considered.
There's only so much that can be done with plastic and sintered metal powder that is as full of holes as swiss cheese (unless there's other steps later), but that's not all this fabrication method can do.

Logistics is Required Here (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about a year ago | (#43572045)

A worthy goal would be to make a 3D print process that creates other 3D printers, then let everyone have a chance to create.

Same thing Holding Back Scanners (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43572053)

Companies do not want a tool that can disrupt their control on any sector.

Most Flatbed Scanners by makers like HP still have the same painfully slow scanning speed for ~ 15 years already. Some other minor makers have fast and better scanners, but those are not common in retail stores and are available mostly online.

The same reason will cripple the 3d Printers. i.e. due to influence from the industry giants, 3D printers will end up with limited capabilities to limit their usage under the excuse of IP.

Seems pretty spot on to me (3, Interesting)

ethicalcannibal (1632871) | about a year ago | (#43572061)

This is the exact reason I haven't picked one up. I can make and use a vacuum former. I can sculpt, and make castings. All of these things are easier for me than working with the current set of 3D printers. I'm sure I could learn to work the thing, and make the programs, but it's just not worth my time, when I can do it the old fashioned way faster. Not everyone is a programmer. If the interface was slick and easy, I'd cough up the cash in minutes. I've been watching the progression of these little things for ages, and would love to have one. However, even my most tech savvy buddies have to spend more time trouble shooting than making. Hell, even the Mojang guys were tweeting about a new 3D printer, and damn if they didn't have to trouble shoot, and replace a part straight off. So the article is right. It's not the $2000 that is holding me back from buying one. It's the learning curve, and the inhospitable user interface. I may be a techy artist, but I'm an artist, not a programmer.

Glossing over cost (1)

skine (1524819) | about a year ago | (#43572079)

Many of the devices are indeed prohibitively expensive, but the inability for your average person — or even your average tech hobbyist — to pick it up and start experimenting is an even bigger obstacle

Hold up for a second there.

I'm pretty sure that the "prohibitively expensive" part is the bigger obstacle.

Even if the printers were free and the software was perfectly consumer-friendly, the cost of maintenance, materials, design time, and printing time would still be steep for something made from cheap plastic.

In the case of making guns (1)

TheRealDevTrash (2849653) | about a year ago | (#43572107)

The dude needs a permit first. and then look out!

Cheap 3d scanner that does color (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about a year ago | (#43572149)

Lack of color.
Lack of cheap integrated 3d scan/create device.

Of course business will go crazy when this is invented.

to complex for Joe Average (1)

pbjones (315127) | about a year ago | (#43572159)

I am convinced that 3D printing is a niche market, I would say that until 3D file generation become as easy as operating a camera, point and shoot, most people will ignore 3D printing. It has been shown that people would like one or two 3D printed items, but why have a printer to print items that are cheaper off the shelf, or fill rubbish bins with failed prints from under powered computers, poor 3D modelling, or corrupt files?

People assemble 3D objects all of the time, they don't need a printer, they have hammer and nails, file and drills, knives and scissors, they don't need a printer. That's part of the issue, we think that a 3D printer opens a new world, and in some areas it may, but many areas are already covered by artisan crafts.

Besides, who wants the smell of ABS drifting through the house? (my Makibot is on order, for printing custom buttons for my wife)

Re:to complex for Joe Average (0)

pbjones (315127) | about a year ago | (#43572165)

Grammar Nazi correction.
It's too complex for the Joe Average

I've been designing/building a 3D printer for (3, Interesting)

mark_reh (2015546) | about a year ago | (#43572169)

almost a year now, on and off. Here are my comments...

Trying to use Arduino Mega2560 controller board with RAMPS 1.4 and LCD/encoder/SD card reader and Marlin firmware has been a nightmare of surfing through thousands of posts on dozens of internet forums to try to get info on how to get the compiler to run, what needs to be modified in the firmware for my machine- no documentation but the often cryptic comments in the source code.

The latest, greatest firmware, Marlin, was developed using an old version of the Arduino-0023 IDE and cannot be compiled on the latest Arduino IDE. The old IDE attempts to define the "round" math function that is already defined in the AVR-GCC compiler, so it will not run unless you comment out the "round" function definition in the old Arduino-0023 IDE.

Next, you have to modify the firmware to fit your machine- it needs to know things like steps/mm in each axis, how big is the print bed, etc. How do you know what needs to be changed? Read through the poor comments in the source code because there is no other documentation, or start hunting through forums. Just figuring out the logic for the endstops is a game of trial and error even though proper comments or better yet, a manual of some sort telling what the defaults are/mean and how to change them, would be a huge help.

Once you get he machine running, there are about 50 variables in the firmware that can be used to tune its performance, if you can figure out what they are and how they affect the print results.

Open source is a nice idea, but I'll take thoroughly documented, reliable PIC hardware and IDE over an Arduino any day of the week, but I'm getting off topic...

Using a printer is a whole different set of problems. Unless you just want to print other people's designs, you need to create a 3D model, requiring knowledge of CAD software. Once you have the model, you have to slice it up using yet another piece of software and requiring knowledge of intimate details of the printer's mechanical, electrical, and thermal characteristics to get maximum quality results.

I used to use PCB milling machines in the 90s and processing the files for cutting a board was a major PITA back then. Here we are 15 years later and the software situation hasn't improved. Until someone integrates the model creation, slicing, and printer control software into a single package and makes it easy for almost anyone to use without a lot of special knowledge or training, 3D printing will remain a hobby for hard-core geeks.

Expectations vs Reality (2)

kfsone (63008) | about a year ago | (#43572177)

When people get excited about 3D-Printing, it's because they are envisioning Picard saying "Tea, Earl Grey, Hot", or because they picture themselves inventing a thing that solves that problem that's always annoyed them, or because they see themselves upgrading the plumbing, wiring and gadgetry around the house. Or they're a parent with delusions of making cool stuff for their kids.

Then they find they have a friend who already got a 3D printer and discover that with do-overs and experiments, it costs more - in time, money and hair - to make whatever it is that you want to make than it would to just go take James Dyson to dinner and see if he would make one for you.

3D printing is not taking on because people have cognized that it's in it's infancy, pathetically pointless and utterly wasteful of time stage.

Affordable, extant desktop 3D printing lets you make PROTOTYPES, moulds, plant pots and coasters. It's useful for NOTHING unless you have some skill/talent as a design engineer (I don't!) and it also turns out that you kinda need to be a cad/graphics artist if you want a remote chance of designing anything that won't end the way of a digitally conveyed gorignak.

Today's 3D Printing tech is to accessible, open-source, desktop manufacturing what the IBM 402 [kottke.org] is to accessible, end-user open source software development.

3d printing is holding back 3d printing (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | about a year ago | (#43572181)

even the best stuff if fairly fragile to a machined part, so really what good is it at this point to mass produce 99$ 3d printers to make a do-dad, when the do-dad can be fractured by minimal mechanical stress?

What? Here's what. (1)

kurt555gs (309278) | about a year ago | (#43572203)

Wall St which controls all money is scared to death of 3D printing upsetting their entire apple cart of investments in the current cheap labor manufacturing and transportation model. 3D printing, if widespread will devalue those investments faster than "they" can recover "their" money. Also, even though evil cabal's like Disney can DRM their 3D images, there is no way to stop similar likenesses or extract payment.

Changes is a bitch.
 

Well ... 3d modeling is not that easy ... (1)

YoungManKlaus (2773165) | about a year ago | (#43572387)

most people really fail badly with it, but as its the whole point of 3d-printing to be able to model your own stuff I see why many people would fail. I myself am pretty good at it (considering that I built counterstrike maps back in the days), but even so when I tried to use blender I gave up because its just a too strange world.
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