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A Bid To Take 3D Printing Mainstream

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the grandma's-printed-cookies dept.

Technology 143

Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes "Can 3D printing go truly mainstream? Startup M3D is betting on it, having launched a Kickstarter campaign to create what it terms the first truly consumer 3D printer, built around proprietary auto-leveling and auto-calibration technology that (it claims) will allow the device to run in an efficient, easy-to-use way for quite some time. According to The Verge, the device is space-efficient, quiet, and sips power: 'One of the main obstacles between 3D printers and consumers has been clunky, unintuitive software. Here too, M3D promises improvements, having designed an app that's 'as interactive and enjoyable as a game' with a minimalist and touch-friendly interface.' Do you think 3D printing can capture a massive audience, or will it remain niche for the foreseeable future?"

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Not going to fly after Oculus Rift (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46686803)

You think people are going to pay you money so you can get bought out by a bigger company to take 3D printing mainstream? Take it to the VCs.

Wasn't that Makerbot? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46686857)

Wasn't that Makerbot?

Re:Not going to fly after Oculus Rift (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46687091)

I don't think 3D printer ventures or the companies that buy them are interested in violating user privacy. 3D printers don't have eye tracking or potential as an advertising platform (when's the last time your Epson/HP/Brother added a coupon to your printouts?). I guess there's DRM potential but those schemes seem doomed to fail.

In other words, the Oculus Rift buyout has nothing to do with the majority of Kickstarter ventures.

Re:Not going to fly after Oculus Rift (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46687309)

Honestly, why the fuck not. That's the thing I don't get about the whole Occulus thing. Getting bought out by Facebook doesn't mean the original funders won't get their Rift. They never bought shares in the company, so it shouldn't matter to them who the owners are. In fact, as has been mentioned, getting bought out by Facebook may be advantageous to the long term stability of the Occulus, with a more mature business operation, likely better access to construction materials (which had already run out once), and a stronger focus on gaming. Really, the vocal protests seem to simply boil down to a feeling that it's not as "hacker"y and home brew an operation anymore, which IMHO seems a bit silly.

Re:Not going to fly after Oculus Rift (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 4 months ago | (#46689355)

You think people are going to pay you money so you can get bought out by a bigger company to take 3D printing mainstream? Take it to the VCs.

Oh, findest ye of little faith mine disturbation! Methods long established banketh not upon keen foresight and wisdom; Nay, filleth thou offering's orifice by thine heady splendorous shortsights whence upon high thee thighs be they hiketh, yon promiscuous promises. Ye doubteth dark sacred rites though in daylight be they performed, whenst thou hath surely been witness to stupendous powers of Occultist Rift's orders!?

'Tis a trick older still than even scribes or books, fishes findeth mouths of bait switched for wicked hooks!

clunky software? (4, Insightful)

Whatsisname (891214) | about 4 months ago | (#46686833)

One of the main obstacles between 3D printers and consumers has been clunky, unintuitive software

More like the fact that CAD software packages cost many thousands of dollars, and no good free alternatives exist.

Or that the printers themselves for commercial grade machines also cost many thousands of dollars.

Or that mechanical design is inherently challenging and is an expensive skill to develop.

But nope, just have some big buttons on a touch screen and everything will be groovy.

Re:clunky software? (2)

zarthrag (650912) | about 4 months ago | (#46686911)

And please don't respond "Oh, just use blender!" It's not a CAD tool if it doesn't have parametrics.

Re:clunky software? (1, Funny)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 4 months ago | (#46687747)

It's not a CAD tool if it doesn't have parametrics.

  I don't see what CAD tools have to do with ambulances.

Re:clunky software? (4, Funny)

almitydave (2452422) | about 4 months ago | (#46687903)

You need the parametrics if you have an extrusion lasting more than four hours.

Re:clunky software? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46689195)

FreeCAD.

It has parametrics.

Re:clunky software? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46686971)

Most people just want to be able to download an object from the internet and print it out.
Missing a part for that new 'some assembly required' doodad that you bought? Hit their website and print it out.
Cheap plastic part snapped under abusive strain? Print out a new one.
Cool new gun design available on the internet? Print it out and fire, fire, fire away!
3D printing will really hit the big time when it is cheap and good enough for stuff like this. People designing and prototyping things is a niche market and not enough to advance the technology quickly. It's like trying to market CD burners only to recording artists.

Re:clunky software? (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about 4 months ago | (#46687185)

When they find it takes a hour to print? not so much.

5-10 minutes tops before people are going to accept it. And that's if you can completely remove any user interaction with the technical side.

It's a 'printer' and they will expect it to work (and likewise the user not work) like one from 2010, not 1980.

Re:clunky software? (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 4 months ago | (#46687303)

An overnight print job is still a lot faster than mail-order.

Re:clunky software? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46687379)

Buying it at a store takes a lot less time than over night.

Re:clunky software? (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 4 months ago | (#46687953)

That depends on how you count it. Do you need it today? If not then you have to compare travel and shopping time to download and printer setup time. And I'm betting the printer usually wins out in that comparison.

Re:clunky software? (1)

mschuyler (197441) | about 4 months ago | (#46689205)

Only if the store has it in stock. And why do I need them as an intermediary anyway? Point, click, file, print is a lot easier than driving to the mall only to find out they don't have it.

Re:clunky software? (2)

Rob Riggs (6418) | about 4 months ago | (#46687611)

Most people just want to be able to download an object from the internet and print it out. Missing a part for that new 'some assembly required' doodad that you bought? Hit their website and print it out. Cheap plastic part snapped under abusive strain? Print out a new one.

Exactly. I have a battery with a broken latching mechanism. A replacement battery is $50. I could print a replacement plastic part for pennies if I had a model for it.

Re:clunky software? (1)

almitydave (2452422) | about 4 months ago | (#46688101)

Most people just want to be able to download an object from the internet and print it out.

Missing a part for that new 'some assembly required' doodad that you bought? Hit their website and print it out.

Cheap plastic part snapped under abusive strain? Print out a new one.

Exactly. I have a battery with a broken latching mechanism. A replacement battery is $50. I could print a replacement plastic part for pennies if I had a model for it.

Here's your killer app: an online database of battery covers for remote controls. No more duct tape holding your batteries in!

Re:clunky software? (3, Insightful)

Sique (173459) | about 4 months ago | (#46687023)

More like the fact that until affordable 3D printing comes along, there is no point in having CAD software targeted at non-professionals. Intuitive CAD software is missing because there never was any demand for it outside of people who actually liked to write CAD packages as a hobby.

Re:clunky software? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46687323)

3D printing will never be all that affordable. Mass production is too much cheaper than one-off printing. 3D printing will continue to be for prototypes and hobbyists, not mainstream.

Re:clunky software? (2)

mschuyler (197441) | about 4 months ago | (#46689225)

Computers will never be all that affordable. Mass production is too much cheaper than one-off designs. Computers will continue to be for big business and hobbyists, not mainstream.

Re:clunky software? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46687025)

There are inexpensive 3D CAD programs for hobbyists, some free, some $50 to $200 (Cubify Design), but they still take learning a mindset necessary to operate them well. If you use it right, Blender will output 3D printable models.

The expectation of "click and go" 3D printing is not realistic when you're trying to tune the part to your needs. Does it need to be light? Does it need to be very strong?

This one doesn't have a heated bed, they claim the bed material is resistant to lifting, but there's no way to verify that.

The special filament spool size appears to be an attempt to lock you into buying their refills.

Re:clunky software? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46687631)

They have a port you can run regular filament through, the small spools are supposed to make the printer portable.

I pledged $299 for the not so early bird pricing.

Tekfactory

Posting as AC because the filter at work hates /.

Re:clunky software? (1)

Artraze (600366) | about 4 months ago | (#46687219)

> More like the fact that CAD software packages cost many thousands of dollars, and no good free alternatives exist.
> Or that mechanical design is inherently challenging and is an expensive skill to develop.

I'd say that these are not "mainstream" issues but rather content creation issues (and creators are quite niche). While text documents are pretty easy to create for a normal printer, once you move past those content creation becomes much more challenging and niche. DVD burners are pretty mainstream, but home mainstream is movie production? Etc.

> Or that the printers themselves for commercial grade machines also cost many thousands of dollars.

That's the real issue. From a mainstream, consumer perspective, what's the value of a 3D printer? If you aren't a creator making sculptures or parts for other creations, what do you make? And what's the savings vs buying it or something quite similar?

There are enough people in this world that basically every generally useful product is cheaply mass produced and widely available. When it comes to consumers, 3D printers are a solution looking for a problem. Until they cost only a couple hundred bucks and can produce sporks for cheaper than you can buy them at Walmart, there just isn't enough utility for them to go mainstream.

Re:clunky software? (1)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | about 4 months ago | (#46687539)

Indeed. Why would I want one of your silly "microwaves" when I can go to restaurants. It'll never take off.

Re:clunky software? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46687683)

Indeed. Why would I want one of your silly "microwaves" when I can go to restaurants. It'll never take off.

Nobody will goto restaurants anymore now that everyone has microwaves.

Re:clunky software? (1)

Artraze (600366) | about 4 months ago | (#46687917)

Microwaves are pretty much totally on my point because:
A) They cost like $50 for a cheap model
B) Meals are cheaper than the cheapest restaurant

If 3D printers get to that point, they may become mainstream.

Re:clunky software? (1)

Travco (1872216) | about 4 months ago | (#46688475)

Have you tried Sketchup? Even the pro version is relatively inexpensive and WOW! intuitive.

Re:clunky software? (1)

nospam007 (722110) | about 4 months ago | (#46688505)

"Or that the printers themselves for commercial grade machines also cost many thousands of dollars."

I paid 10.000$ for my first 2D black&white Postscript Laserprinter >25 years ago and I liked it.

Re:clunky software? (1)

Tom (822) | about 4 months ago | (#46688607)

More like the fact that CAD software packages cost many thousands of dollars, and no good free alternatives exist.

Cheetah 3D [cheetah3d.com] is like 70 bucks and I've used it to create models for 3D printing.

It's not free, but if you're into 3D printing then 70 bucks is nothing as everything else involved costs you a lot more.

Tom = multiple /. sockpuppet acct using scum (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46689035)

And libeler: How'd "eating your words" taste? See here http://slashdot.org/comments.p... [slashdot.org] were they flavorful (lol) seasoned with "the bitter taste of SELF-defeat" + YOUR FOOT IN YOUR MOUTH you bigmouth libelous Open SORES bullshitter?

As to the rest of my subject, let's let TOM speak shall we:

"I'm having great conversations on this site with one of my alias accounts" - by Tom (822) on Monday April 07, 2014 @02:29PM (#46686259) Homepage

FROM -> http://slashdot.org/comments.p... [slashdot.org]

Re:Tom = multiple /. sockpuppet acct using scum (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46689133)

That Tom troll's a real piece of work isn't he? An assclown who mods up his own posts using sockpuppets and uses them to harass others like the disturbed freaks his kind are.

Re:clunky software? (1)

mercnet (691993) | about 4 months ago | (#46688649)

Autodesk has a cloud based CAD software, Fusion 360, which you can rent monthly. It does allow you to export files for 3D printing. http://www.autodesk.com/produc... [autodesk.com]

no... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46686855)

Recognize what 3d printing really does very well; one offs and/or prototypes.

If you need 1 of something 3d printing is a good choice. If you need 30k of something it is an awful choice. Many times you are better off finding the one off something already made. Then if that does not work then look into 3d printing.

At this point it is finiky (unless you are really into it) and somewhat on the pricy side (both setup and feed stock). For someone really into it like a hacker/maker yeah buy one. For joe schmoe? Skip, it will gather much dust in your garage/spare room.

3d printing is an excellent tool. Recognize it for that. Making the software better is a good step for the 'joe schmoe' factor. But you still have the problems of feed stock and setup/tuning. Which are getting better but frankly are not quiet there yet.

In 5 years it will probably be a lot better...

Re:no... (1)

ubergeek2009 (1475007) | about 4 months ago | (#46686947)

I've worked quite a bit with 3D printers and 3D printed components. You can put together a RepRap for $500 (Makerbot has issues, mainly with belts) and the filament is overpriced, but not terribly expensive. I don't believe that these devices belong in the kitchen or living room, but most definitely in the hobbyist's home shop, or in the garage next to the table saw and drill press.

Already going mainstream (2)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 4 months ago | (#46686881)

There are two barriers right now - cost of the printer and time to print.

For cost, you just need a Kinkos or OfficeMax or USPS or FedEx store model - where you have an account and have it printed there and you pick it up.

For time, the above model works fairly well.

We actually have quite a few 3D printers on campus and use them for a lot of things, so you can see it moving - you can even print stuff at the UW Bookstore (which also prints books in the public domain of rare editions).

Re:Already going mainstream (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46686899)

There is one huge barrier. You cannot 3D print material properties.

Re:Already going mainstream (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 4 months ago | (#46686933)

There is one huge barrier. You cannot 3D print material properties.

I agree, tensile strength and lack of fiber cores is a serious drawback. We're working on tech to 3D print over stronger fiber cores and medical applications using wire mesh frameworks to try to deal with that. May even try bone structure concepts for some of the medical applications.

It really depends on what you 3D print with. If you use a modified spiderweb approach to lay down a support structure it really slows it down a lot right now, but it gives you much better results.

Re:Already going mainstream (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 months ago | (#46689197)

There is one huge barrier. You cannot 3D print material properties.

There are already printers which can incorporate multiple materials into a single design. A logical extension of this idea might be a print bed which can be shipped between machines. Anyone thinking of applying for a patent might note that I have already thought that you might want it to actually be an enclosed, insulated case for the purposes of maintaining print area temperature :p

Re:Already going mainstream (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46689279)

First of all, material != material properties.

I can take a block of aluminum.

Machine it,
Forge it,
Cold Forge it,
Cast it,
Weld it.

Each different manufacturing method will result in different material properties even though they the are the same material.

Re:Already going mainstream (1)

ubergeek2009 (1475007) | about 4 months ago | (#46686963)

Are you at University of Washington or University of Wisconsin?

Re:Already going mainstream (-1)

cyborg_monkey (150790) | about 4 months ago | (#46687005)

why don't you go stretch yourself.

Re:Already going mainstream (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46688591)

u of wyoming ?

Here we go again (1)

Enfixed (2423494) | about 4 months ago | (#46686897)

1: Start a promising buzzword based Kickstarted project.
2: Sell to large company turning everyone's Kickstarter contributions into a steaming pile of ....
3: (No ??? step, we've been here before)
4: PROFIT!!!

Hmm (1)

CheezburgerBrown . (3417019) | about 4 months ago | (#46686907)

I thought Makerbot already did this.

Can 3D Printing go mainstream? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46686915)

Yes it can, but not with these guys' plan. Sure their printer is cheap and all, but so what? Here's how you make 3D printing mainstream:

1) Find an item that can be 3D printed and be useful and cheaper than buying the product. Something that everyday mom and pop would find interesting, not 3D printing hobbyists.
2) Market to consumers how this item is better being 3D printed rather than buying at the store, and would save you $X per one printed vs. bought.
3) have a cheap, decent quality 3D printer.
4) Profit.

These guys did #3, but what they need is #1 to make it mainstream. If 1% of the country finds that their life is made better by 3D printing some product instead of buying it or ordering it, then you'll have 3 million consumer grade 3D printers out there because they will understand the value. That will create a critical mass of consumers available for more 3D printed products, which will in turn generate more and more 3D printed products. What 3D printing needs is the 3D printed version of the "killer app" or the "exclusive video game" that puts the printers in consumers' hands, which will in turn create a market for more 3D printed products.

Re:Can 3D Printing go mainstream? (1)

ledow (319597) | about 4 months ago | (#46687011)

Easier:

Combine with Kinect-like scanning to make a 3D photocopier.

Then Games Workshop would go bust in a year...

Random toys (2)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 4 months ago | (#46686917)

This will be good for creating random toys and knick knacks. The problem with 3d software for the masses is that it's technical. When you create a part for use (as opposed to a blob of toyness), holes, edges, parts have to be in a specific place. That requires math, which is beyond the reach of the average user. It's like trying to create a technical drawing with an iPad sketch program. You can make pretty pictures with your finger (okay - artists can, you can just make ugly dogs and weird looking trees), but you can't make a scaled technical drawing for fabrication.

Oh, and kickstarter is not a mainstream consumer outlet. Call me when they have the model for sale at WalMart or Staples.

Re:Random toys (1)

ubergeek2009 (1475007) | about 4 months ago | (#46687195)

3D modelling is way easier than producing good technical drawings, and you don't need the drawings for 3D printed components. The only time you would need them is if you had to submit them to another company or for checking the part for tolerances.

Re:Random toys (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46687563)

As requested, a 3d printer for sale at Staples.

http://www.staples.com/CubeX-Duo-Commercial-3D-Printer/product_280601

Re:Random toys (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 months ago | (#46689183)

Is there really and truly any reason why a user can't reasonably expect to sketchup (or use some other similarly simple modeling program) a toy with a line drawn through it in a couple of places marked "axle" and expect software to figure out how thick that axle needs to be, and how a 3d printer is going to lay down some bearings around it while printing the toy truck or duck or whatever with wheels on it? Software can already handle turning the "solid" parts of solids into structured voids to save material and mass, I don't think it's that much of a stretch.

Most people's 3d printer needs, however, would be solved by an app which lets them drop both broken pieces of something on a flatbed scanner a few times (some of them have infinite depth-of-field per element) or use an automated turntable scanner, and then match them up even semi-manually before being able to print a replacement.

Seems to me like the best way to handle this in the short term is for hardware stores to provide 3d printing services. You bring them both pieces and they have the fancy expensive scanner and software to replicate your part, and the fancy expensive printer to print it without massive steps all over it.

It'll stay niche until... (1)

msobkow (48369) | about 4 months ago | (#46686923)

It'll stay niche until people come up with more useful things to print than a handful of Yoda figurines or a gun barrel that's guaranteed to blow up in your face. While there are some people who've made useful things with 3D printers, the average person is not going to produce the engineering quality 3D models that are needed to build such useful items.

It's a niche (1)

koan (80826) | about 4 months ago | (#46686927)

Most people can't even bother with making coffee from scratch, what makes anyone think they want to deal with calibration, software, consumables, and other aspects of 3D printing.

Re:It's a niche (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 4 months ago | (#46688623)

From scratch as in growing the beans, or roasting them or grinding them or just dumping then in a cafietere?

My new book (4, Interesting)

koan (80826) | about 4 months ago | (#46686943)

How To Get Rich Off of Kickstarter Without Delivering.

Re:My new book (4, Funny)

netsavior (627338) | about 4 months ago | (#46687523)

Book will be available once we meet our funding goal!

Re:My new book (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46687615)

Mod parent +5 funny

Re:My new book (1)

Zalbik (308903) | about 4 months ago | (#46689041)

Damnit, now I have to wipe coffee off my screen!

Where are my damn mod points when I want them?

+1 Funny

Th8is FP faor GNAA (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46686945)

It can become mainstream, but not quite yet (4, Insightful)

Molt (116343) | about 4 months ago | (#46686953)

Over the last few years 3d printing has come on dramatically, it's great for rapid prototyping.

Unfortunately though the average home user doesn't really have much need for rapid prototyping, and most of the things which come out of current 3d printers just don't look polished enough to appeal. They're still very rough looking, more the type of thing which'd come out of a Christmas cracker than the type of thing most people would want as decor.

In terms of software I don't think a more user-friendly 3d editor will help too much. I view 3d product design as similar to writing software, you can make it more accessible but most people are just going to be interested in the library of things other people have developed. Make a library of designs which the average person (not the average current 3d printer owner, they're more enthusiast) will find interesting, attractive, and useful and maybe you'll break the mainstream- until then it's the realm of the tinkerer and the hacker. Most people don't need or want a print out of the Stanford rabbit.

I'm not saying this isn't of interest or use, I may have pledged for one myself if I didn't find paying the import duties to the UK to be so painful (Anyone want to Kickstart a business importing other business' Kickstarters?), but it's still just another 3d printer. I don't think it's the type of thing I'd be recommending to my parents and neighbours though, I just don't think they'd want to deal with the hassles that 3d printers currently bring in exchange for the benefits. How much 3d printing do most people actually need?

What I do see as becoming more popular is the shared printer. People at home make orders for larger and well-finished 3d objects selected from a catalogue and printed on a very nice printer, and they either post them or make them available for collection at central points. I know businesses like Shapeways do this already but the price isn't right for most people yet, it needs to be the case where printing a vase isn't that much more expensive than buying one, and printing a piece to fix your plumbing should be easily affordable.

Re:It can become mainstream, but not quite yet (1)

canadiannomad (1745008) | about 4 months ago | (#46687233)

I totally agree that it will end up having more to do with having a great library of designs that the average person can print (or even modify!) easily.
I would imagine getting a 3D printer right before having children, and I would want it for the following things:
Toys
Kitchen utensils, plates, cups, bowls, etc
Decorations / spare parts

So I would need a library of such things, a printer that could print in various colours with foodsafe, microwavable materials, strongly enough that items wont break under normal load, and won't have lots of edges I have to file down with sandpaper or porous holes I have to fill. And all that for a reasonable price (including the source materials)
None of the commercial 3D printers I've seen or heard about come close to having that list of features. But if someone were to come up with that mixture, I could imagine buying it.

Re:It can become mainstream, but not quite yet (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 4 months ago | (#46687413)

I think the easy modification is what has potential to sell it. If you can print an easily customizable (as in adjust few sliders) lampshade design, etc. you've got the potential for mass-market appeal. If you can only print out pre-designed items then mass-production can provide ea higher-quality version of the same thing, and it'll probably be cheaper as well. And that will keep 3D printing as the domain primarily of hobbyists and prototypers.

Re:It can become mainstream, but not quite yet (1)

canadiannomad (1745008) | about 4 months ago | (#46687493)

But to me that sounds like a library and software problem, which can easily be upgraded/updated over time (or provided mostly online)
Obviously the consumables have to come down in price to so that economy of scale starts making sense. I don't care about 1 lampshade, I care about all the hundreds/thousands of little plastic things (tupperware, tupperware lids, jugs) that I have to buy over time and the convenience of acquiring them.
It would be a lot easier for me to buy lots of plastic consumables in bulk knowing that the day will come where I'll want to print something, if I know I can have almost anything I need with said materials.

Re:It can become mainstream, but not quite yet (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 4 months ago | (#46688089)

>But to me that sounds like a library and software problem

Certainly. And the problem is that until the software reaches a certain level of ease-of-use there will be no demand for 3D printer hardware except by enthusiasts. What do you suppose the modern market for PCs would be if the hardware were at its current level, but the state-of-the-art OS was still a single-tasking text-only command line with no graphical support? The hardware is only half the product.

Why would you buy a 3D printer and consumables today knowing "the day would come" when you could print out all the plastic crap you need? Why not just wait until the day *arrives*, then you'll be able to buy a much-superior printer more cheaply and start getting use from it immediately.

Re:It can become mainstream, but not quite yet (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 4 months ago | (#46689251)

Printer filament will always be more expensive then a mass produced injection molded part. The filament has to be extruded, the part molded.

Also the printed part will suck, strength wise vs the molded part.

The only place it makes any sense to print 'plastic junk' is when you can print a part and extend the life of something valuable. 3d plastic printers are for prototyping.

Re:It can become mainstream, but not quite yet (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 4 months ago | (#46689497)

As far as cost is concerned, Not necessarily. Injection molding is a batch process, and in fact often starts with plastic pellets that were themselves extruded as filament that was immediately chopped into tiny lengths. Extrusion is potentially far more efficient since it can be done as a continuous process.

For strength you are correct, assuming an equivalent quantity of plastic. On the other hand in most cases there's no reason you can't use more plastic to create stronger parts. Especially as personal recyclers improve so that when you're done with your 3d printed doodad you can chuck it back into the bin to become fresh filament. Certainly we're not there yet, but we already have PLA(?) recyclers that can convert old milk-jugs into fresh fiber, even if it is currently pretty low-grade.

Re:It can become mainstream, but not quite yet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46687507)

I would imagine getting a 3D printer right before having children, and I would want it for the following things:
Toys
Kitchen utensils, plates, cups, bowls, etc
Decorations / spare parts

Once you have kids, you won't have time to dick with your 3d printer. And everything you need for kids is already cheaply available - one trip to Target will set you up.

I don't think they'll ever be as mainstream as a regular printer, because most people just won't get any value from them. Best case is your local CVS will have one which you can upload your design to & pick up in an hour.

For what purpose? (1)

luckymutt (996573) | about 4 months ago | (#46687001)

I don't see how the "mainstream" market would really have a need for 3d printers. Those who are hobbyists will always find a use for it, but "mainstream?" Maybe I don't understand what the author means by that.
We use a 3d printing service at work when we are prototyping hardware and light fixtures and such. Those services are getting cheaper and I see that as the way the "mainstream"market market will go. The only thing I have found to make is custom lego mini figure accessories for the kids.

Re:For what purpose? (2)

KindMind (897865) | about 4 months ago | (#46687159)

I think this is a key question for any 3d printer / software setup. Most of the posts on Slashdot seem to center around "designing something for real" (prototyping, replacing a part, etc.)

But I think a recreational version would take off if done right. For example, my 7 year old granddaughter loves minecraft, and spends hours building things there. I think she would love the ability to print out stuff she has built there. She also likes to make her own videos. She will arrange her dollhouses and stuff animals and make up a story involving them, and record it. I think she would love the ability to design her own dollhouses, sets, etc.

For her, a minecraft approach of dropping and destroying pre-made blocks, etc., would work very well. Especially if she can paint and color her model of whatever after it is printed. She won't care about the exact dimensions, etc., as long as it fits together. Let the software handle that.

So the problem becomes, I think, "know the audience" and design appropriately for that audience.

Re:For what purpose? (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 4 months ago | (#46687483)

An *excellent* idea.

I suspect once 3D printing becomes commonplace people will finds lots of uses for it, BUT very few people will consider buying one for those purposes. Bit of a chicken and egg problem. On the other hand if you can make the thing easy and reliable enough for a child to operate, and very importantly make the design software similarly easy to use, then you've got a chance of getting a foothold in the lucrative toy market. Then, so long as you make sure you can still print objects from more serious modeling applications, mom, dad, big brother, etc. can start playing with it as well, and *that* may start creating a mass market for higher-end consumer printers.

Re:For what purpose? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46687499)

For example, my 7 year old granddaughter loves minecraft, and spends hours building things there. I think she would love the ability to print out stuff she has built there. She also likes to make her own videos. She will arrange her dollhouses and stuff animals and make up a story involving them, and record it. I think she would love the ability to design her own dollhouses, sets, etc.

They already have this [lego.com] .
Lego already failed to take off with girls. What makes you think 3D printing will take off with them?

Re:For what purpose? (1)

KindMind (897865) | about 4 months ago | (#46687723)

Actually my granddaughter loves legos, and includes things she builds out of legos in her plays. But legos can be clunky and time consuming to put together (especially if you are trying to follow a complicated layout).

I think she would prefer to build it virtually first, and hit a key and have what she built come out.

You are right however - I have no idea about the general public. I do think that if a kid is already into minecraft (and it is pretty popular among my granddaughter's friends), they would be a good candidate for 3d printing from that kind of approach.

Re:For what purpose? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46688117)

I think she would prefer to build it virtually first, and hit a key and have what she built come out.

That's time consuming and clunky.

Re:For what purpose? (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 4 months ago | (#46689275)

You can get software that will give you an infinite set of virtual Legos.

It truly sucks to use. Real world Legos have a much better user interface.

Yet Another Crap Extruder (2)

Animats (122034) | about 4 months ago | (#46687147)

This is Yet Another Crap Extruder based printer. That whole class of machines sort of works on good days. None of them Just Work.

The fundamental problem is that they're welding a hot thing to a cold thing. That sucks for metal welding, it sucks for soldering, and it sucks for plastic welding. It's how you get bad welds, cold solder joints, and fractures in 3D printing. The heated build plate systems usually start a build OK, but a few cm from the build plate, that heat source isn't close enough to help much. So many taller builds fail around 2-5 cm.

For this process to work, it needs better temperature control. A heated build chamber (that's patented). A hot air jet or small laser aimed at the target just before the weld (larger plastic welders do this). But nobody seems to be doing that. They just keep coming up with variations in the 3-axis motion mechanism (not hard to get right) and the software (not really the problem). Or they add DRM and overcharge for "print cartridges".

Re:Yet Another Crap Extruder (2)

ultranova (717540) | about 4 months ago | (#46687395)

The fundamental problem is that they're welding a hot thing to a cold thing. That sucks for metal welding, it sucks for soldering, and it sucks for plastic welding.

Does it absolutely need to welding? Could you use a quick-curing resin and a constant pour from, say, a mesh top plate that rises steadily to stay a few millimeters above the gelification front? You'd get a totally smooth surface that way, too (since it's kept that way by surface tension as it cures), and it wold be easy to extend this system to have reinforcement fibers spooling out from the top too..

Re:Yet Another Crap Extruder (1)

leftover (210560) | about 4 months ago | (#46687767)

Fused-filament is actually welding because the molten material is the same as the 'base' material. The real problem is shrinkage in going from melt to solid. The same problem occurs in 2-part polymers since they shrink as they both polymerize and cool. (They get bleep-ing HOT during the process!) Some of the other processes (selective UV curing, selective laser sintering) avoid that problem and produce much better surface quality but at the cost of even longer build times and extremely more expensive materials.

Re:Yet Another Crap Extruder (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46687813)

No it doesn't have to be welding, there are 3d printers that uses resin, usually ones that harden when exposed to UV light and there are other techniques in use as well. The comment was about this specific printer and the majority of FDM printers.

Re:Yet Another Crap Extruder (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 4 months ago | (#46687551)

>None of them Just Work.
Isn't that what this project is claiming as its goal? No, it won't solve the cold-welding problem, but from what I've seen for most non-load-bearing applications that's not really much of an issue - the far larger issue is constant repairs and recalibration, and having to babysit the machine while it's working. Make something cheap and simple enough that little Tom and Suzy can reliably print out custom Happy-Meal grade toys and you've got something that would have mass appeal. If you want to make "real" stuff then invest in a professional-grade printer - prices seem to be in free-fall so by the time the first mass-appeal plastic printers hit the market basic sintering machines, etc. will likely only cost a few grand.

Consumer Reports (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46687157)

Consumer Reports reviewed 3-D printers the other month. How much more mainstream does it get?

No. (1)

Guano_Jim (157555) | about 4 months ago | (#46687315)

I think 3D printing as we know it today is likely to remain in the realm of the hobbyist for the foreseeable future. BUT... at $300 a pop this new printer's going to open up the process to a lot more hobbyists who might be scared off by a MakerBot's monster price tag.

A printer like the M3D would be put at a price point where it wouldn't be unusual to find one at an elementary school. I could see this becoming a great educational tool.

Re:No. (3, Informative)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 4 months ago | (#46687731)

A 3D printer for under 500$USD is nothing new.

The Printrbot Simple Kit [printrbot.com] has available for months, for 349$USD.

Still too expensive? For 200$USD, you can get a Makibox A6 LT [makibox.com] .

Want to go even lower? You can get a Peachy Printer [kickstarter.com] for only 100$CAD.

First things first (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 4 months ago | (#46687419)

I'm still waiting on those claims to come true of 2D printing.

A massive audience might be available indirectly (1)

John.Banister (1291556) | about 4 months ago | (#46687425)

For repair purposes, I can see people with skill at operating 3d printers and scanners providing replacement part services to people who (paid or unpaid) fix things for the local portion of a massive audience. In particular 3d printed parts could be useful when the repair person finds that the problem is a broken or worn piece of plastic, like a plastic gear with a broken tooth, or a plastic key with a broken stem on a remote that got dropped. Much of the time it will be cheaper to just replace the entire device, but sometimes people will value fixing the item they're comfortable with, and fabricating a custom replacement part that's no longer otherwise manufactured will be just the thing. The electromechanical door locking mechanism on my 22 year old car is like this. A replacement mechanism isn't available, and I can still lock the car mechanically, but it's always annoying that one worn custom plastic gear keeps me from being able to lock it with the remote fob.

Huge (1, Redundant)

Jim Sadler (3430529) | about 4 months ago | (#46687437)

3D printing is a huge game changer. It may be the greatest thing since the invention of the wheel. A 3D printer that can build a home apparently already exists. A canoe or a camper might be rather easy to generate. Combine 3D printing with robotics and the handwriting is on the wall. On top of all of that we now have tiny computers that are surprisingly capable. What might a 3D printer do with material to build a robot powered by a Raspberry Pi?

Re:Huge (1)

ndrw (205863) | about 4 months ago | (#46687883)

What might a 3D printer do with material to build a robot powered by a Raspberry Pi?

Destroy humanity?

Re:Huge (1)

axlash (960838) | about 4 months ago | (#46688567)

Too bad I don't have points to mod this up. Love the way you send up the hype.

The theoretical & practical hurdles of 3D prin (1)

quietwalker (969769) | about 4 months ago | (#46687445)

Theoretically you need to;
    - Level the build plate and calibrate it
    - Learn any 3D modeling software to create or modify objects, often at millimeter level precision
    - Learn the slicing software which converts your 3D object file into a file your printer understands as instructions

That's it. Frankly, the second one is a huge investment of time and energy, and while some simple 3D design is possible in very stripped-down programs, nothing BUT simple design is possible in very stripped-down programs. Autodesk Inventor and others may be more complex than they need to be, but only for a fairly basic definition of 'need'. Many folks just rely on others models and skip step two entirely, and you can get by that way ... for a while.

A bigger problem to the consumer market is the practical issues. What a consumer needs is reliability, and a by-the-numbers process. Like an ink printer, when I send a document to it, I hit 'print' and I expect it to work.

It took a long time for printers and copiers to get to that point. Even now we have issues where printers need different settings for different paper, and we still have paper jams and ink smears, and the basic functionality of a printer is significantly less complex.

So we're not there yet though. As a replicative process, any minor error grows geometrically as the model progresses, and we don't have consumer-level devices that match the precision of the expensive commercial-sized printers. The following items all have a large impact on the success of your build, and all of them are intractably linked; print speed affects optimal rafting, which is impacted by the humidity, and so on and so on.

    - Managing airflow, humidity, temp, and particulate matter (dust) around the device
    - Rafting and supports to actually allow printing various shapes with undercuts and voids (which vary based on a number of things, not least of which is the actual model)
    - Balancing heating and cooling; cooling causes contraction which results in curling especially when different parts of the build are at different temps at the same time.
    - Print speed
    - Print quality
    - Printer head wear and tear

One of the tests of these "pro-sumer" 3D printers is to try to print the same object out 5 or 10 times, and count how many times it was successful with the same build instructions. 8/10 is really good. Usually, of course, you'll have to try 2 or 3 times just to get your first 'successful enough' print - these don't count, you're just dialing the numbers in for that model based on experience and guesswork for your specific printer.

What we're left with is this; All the made-for-your-mother, 'basic consumer' 3D printers are, and will be for the short foreseeable future, akin to the EZ-Bake-Oven. They sorta look like a real oven, and they can sort of cook food like a real oven, but you're not meant to try to use it as a real oven. Stick to the company approved recipes only, and even then, the quality will be low.

So, no, I don't think they're going anywhere with a consumer device at this point in time. Maybe in another 5-8 years we'll be ready for the first widely usable one, but it's a bit too early to crow about it just yet.

Re:The theoretical & practical hurdles of 3D p (1)

ndrw (205863) | about 4 months ago | (#46687943)

I'm not sure you're entirely correct here. I think you're right that "average" people won't be able to do good 3D design, but I'm seeing more and more gallery sites open with very interesting 3D models available for free. I think there's a good analogy to the early computer industry. We had very few users that weren't power users, because it was a pain to learn. But then, more and more people created interesting software and the hardware advanced and it became cheaper and easier to get involved (thanks to shareware, freeware, hardware clones, etc.), and now we've got these crazy pocket computers with amazing apps for $.99. I think 3D printing and production may follow a similar adoption model, we're just in the early-adopter, hobbyist, hardcore geek phase now.

Please no! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46687463)

I shudder to think of the resulting landfills.

The first user-friendly 3D-printer? Hardly. (1)

wertigon (1204486) | about 4 months ago | (#46687639)

The Bucaneer [pirate3d.com] had this same concept for over a year ago...

It will be as popular as DIY tableware, not very. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46687701)

There are many products that people buy, including food, which are readily producible by people who wish to do so but the DIY crowd is a minority because most people just want to consume the best of whatever humanity can devise, at the cheapest price and with the greatest convenience.

Look at ceramics, very old tech with readily available materials and technology, but how many people make the plates they eat off?

A 3D printer is a mini factory and if it cannot produce a product that is "better" overall that what can be purchased online, shipped from a factory and delivered to people's door, it will never be used by most people on a regular basis.

Rather I see 3D printing empowering regional production and skilled artisans more than every consumer.

Never Mainstream (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46687797)

There won't be a massive user base of 3D printers for the simple reason that most people don't need them.

It is far simpler, faster and cheaper to run down to Walmart and buy items already made! What possibly would the average user want to create? Just download something? The vast majority of printable items on Thingverse are useless chatskis, and the average person won't have the desire, time or skills to create something new.

Until 3D printers reach the Star Trek replicator level, they will stay on the benches of hobbyists and those in need of design prototypes.

Let's see (4, Informative)

janoc (699997) | about 4 months ago | (#46687851)

This topic has been re-hashed here before several times (e.g. here [slashdot.org] )

Let's see what is actually innovative or different on this printer when compared to the existing ones:

- automatic leveling - ok, but they seem to use a sensor ("motion sensor chip"?!) in the printer head (?!) and not moving bed. I am not really sure how this could actually work ...
- non-heated bed - they claim it is not needed because of autoleveling, but that is BS. You need heated bed for ABS to stick to it, level or not level, otherwise the moving head will lift the print or it will warp. Nothing to do with the bed being level.
- tiny working volume
- autocalibration - again some magical "motion sensor chip" is mentioned, without any explanation what that autocalibration is nor how it works ...
- they are keen on the artistic look of the thing, but I have serious reservations about the rigidity and accuracy of the device - the claimed 15um is only the theoretical resolution of the steppers, not actual resolution of the printer (depends on the nozzle size which is 0.45mm by default!). The ABS body doesn't instill much confidence!
- reduced power consumption is somehow supposed to make things lighter and cheaper (?!) - that argument seems backwards to me ...
- startup, they don't have any other products - who knows when they will actually be able to deliver. The August date is completely unrealistic.
- their team doesn't instill much confidence - 1 electronics guy, 1 CNC guy, 4 CAD people, 2 sw people, but they have 8 artists, 2 PR agencies and 4 lawyers! Not a healthy balance, IMO ...

- incredibly cheap price ($300), but you get what you pay for IMO
- they have exceeded their funding target 10x already ...

Honestly, I don't see how this printer will make 3D printing somehow accessible to the unwashed masses - there are still all those issues of CAD, mechanical design, toy-like device with nebulous claims and nothing to back it up.

Re:Let's see (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46689317)

There are several ways to do automatic leveling. I'm assuming they are using an accelerometer to detect when the head smacks into the bed, but the usual way in CNC is to have a conductive bed and detect when electrical contact is made with the head/probe.

They may be doing something fancier, but I doubt it. Most of your points are rather important, although the lack of the heated bed could be mitigated by enclosing the print area(that patent should be expiring soon) and without a heated bed they could use a substantially smaller power supply that would save, maybe, 20 bucks. Smaller build area reduces the rigidity needed by flat out having less distance to wobble over.

The real killers are the price and the production schedule. The electronics alone should cost nearly half the selling price if they aren't complete crap, while getting the molds made and dialed-in under 5 months seems wildly optimistic based on other kickstarter projects that had custom molds made.

2D printer (3, Insightful)

fph il quozientatore (971015) | about 4 months ago | (#46688249)

So you mean they will soon get as clunky and unreliable as 2D printers?

Why fund proprietary crapware? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46688413)

I get it's not an investment, but it's proprietary. There is not advantage to this. There is no reason or incentive for me to put out good money when someone else is going to gain from it, and nothing of value (such as freedom, etc) is gained.

Nope. Still not consumer items. (1)

oscrivellodds (1124383) | about 4 months ago | (#46688685)

Sure, you can print their library of files that have been prepared specifically for the machine, but what are those files? Little bits of plastic junk you can buy at Walmart for almost free anyway. How long will the novelty of printing salt and pepper shakers last?

At $300 grandma and grandpa are going to be buying these for the grandkids instead of the cheesy microscopes and telescopes they used to buy in that price range. Unless the kid is seriously motivated to learn how to get the best performance from this thing (learn to use CAD software, etc.) it will end up like those microscopes and telescopes- on sale for $0.50 at the next garage sale.

3D printers are for hobbyists who make things. There may be a few nascent hobbyists out there who haven't been making things because they lack the means, and this may be the thing that pushes them to actually start producing stuff, but for most it will be an expensive toy that will quickly fall into disuse.

I like the autoleveling and I'm interested in seeing how they print ABS without heating the bed. Both are useful developments if they work.

Tired of the hype (1)

pbjones (315127) | about 4 months ago | (#46689211)

3D printers will be attractive to consumers when they are sub$500 AND provide quality prints quickly. People take print time into account along with price so if it takes hours to print an object that they can buy over the counter, people will just buy over the counter and avoid the hassle of a machine thumping away for hours. My prediction has always been that 3D printing will be done in a shop front or via mail order. This latest unit is just taking advantage of the dissatisfaction with the current crop of consumer printers, and may not actually live up to the promises.

How many people create the words they print? (0)

mschuyler (197441) | about 4 months ago | (#46689345)

The idea that 3D printing won't take off because people are not well-versed in designing their own 3D products with expensive CAD software is like saying printers won't take off because people aren't really good writers and can't afford a word processor. How many people use their printers for printing off their own words from a word processor? How many people use their printers for printing off PDF files, manuals, brochures, etc. from the Net?

Why won't 3D printers take off again?

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