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The Modern Ease of 3D Printing

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the can-you-fax-me-a-wrench-please dept.

Printer 264

An anonymous reader writes "What will it mean when 3D fabricators become cheap and common? A NY Times article explores the ease of copying objects by scanning them with NextEngine scanner and sending them to 3d 'print shops'. The experiments were done with Legos because most of the things around his office were protected by copyright. What will happen to the economy for engineering when we can just download a pirated description of a machine and 'print' it out? 'The world is just beginning to grapple with the implications of this relatively low-cost duplicating method, often called rapid prototyping. Hearing aid companies, for instance, are producing some custom-fitted ear pieces from scanned molds of patients. Custom car companies produce new parts for classic cars or modified parts for hot rods. Consumer product makers create fully functional designs before committing themselves to big production runs.'"

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Great! (5, Funny)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621051)

"one trick for making models of dark shiny objects is to coat them with a cloud of white powder"

Great, so now when I'm in the tech room doing blow and the boss walks in I'll have a reasonable excuse: I'm prototyping my nose for a prosthetic. Never mind that not even a disfigured maxillofacial surgery patient would want my nose, but hey, the boss doesn't know that.

Re:Great! (2, Funny)

Stanistani (808333) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621961)

Your nose is dark and shiny?

Implications are obvious (5, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621063)

What will it mean when 3D fabricators become cheap and common?

When you think about it, modern society is moving more and more to the production of "intellectual property" (i.e. an idea as something you can own) rather than the production of physical goods. A modern individual has the capability of mastering their own music and movies, post-processing and distributing their own photographs in both digital and physical form, creating their own PCB-based electronics, designing their own Microprocessors, building their own vehicles (airplanes are a big one!), and many other tasks that used to require massive resources and tens-to-hundreds of emlpoyees.

Each time a task went digital, society was temporarily disrupted while the new technology was integrated. Then life went on, except that society was now capable of greater production than before. The implications of 3D printing technology are the same. The value of goods themselves will be reduced to the cost of initial development. Once that development has been achieved, unlimited copies will be possible. So the average consumer will see a reduction in costs, and the average producer will see an increase in profits.

"Piracy" will continue to be a problem, but it will be just like today. If producers offer a good value for the price, the majority of consumers won't bother with piracy. If producers are dumb enough to resist the change (*cough*I'm looking at you music industry*cough*), then they can expect that piracy will run rampant until they do offer such services.

Then life will go on, but just a bit better than before. ;)

Re:Implications are obvious (5, Insightful)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621207)

I humbly disagree.

The reason it has happened that way in the past is because creating and replicating audio and video are relatively easy once they are digitized. The sensory data (sound saves and light waves) lend themselves well for digital reproduction at close to perfect quality. Duplication can be done perfectly, with no loss in transmission.

That is not the case with physical reproduction, and I doubt will be for some time. These 3d scanners are good for only what their ads say: prototyping. There will not be a day when you will be able to scan copy and duplicate even a nut or a bolt in your garage anywhere near as cheaply as it can be done en masse at a production plant simply because the mould, tools and materials are too expensive on a small scale to be feasible. Now I know about the "never say never" line in technology, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that while the productive capacity of the home user will scale up, you will never get to the point where manufacturers of physical items will be squeezed out the way manufacturers of virtual goods (music, movies etc) have been. There's a fundamental difference between copying Britney Spears' latest warblings and copying a Ferrari.

Re:Implications are obvious (5, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621755)

These 3d scanners are good for only what their ads say: prototyping. There will not be a day when you will be able to scan copy and duplicate even a nut or a bolt in your garage anywhere near as cheaply as it can be done en masse at a production plant simply because the mould, tools and materials are too expensive on a small scale to be feasible.

I agree and yet I disagree at the same time. I agree that scanning is an imperfect process that isn't likely to improve sufficiently in the next few decades. However, when a modern engineer is developing a part, does he still use a pen and paper to design the diagram? Of course not! The object is designed in detail in a CAD program. Those CAD drawings are then used in manufacturing a mold to spec.

Now consider for a moment, what happens when you take that 3D model and feed it into a 3D Printer? In theory, at least, the printer will be able to reproduce the object with perfect quality. In reality, the printer will be limited by its design (as most manufacturing methods are), possibly requiring the 3D model to be tweaked for the printer. However, most parts are created with similar limitations in mind (e.g. a plastic part is likely to be in two pieces with open ends that fit together) making the models very easy to transfer over to 3D printing.

Now I don't disagree that there will continue to be significant differences between what someone can manufacture in the home and what can be manufactured in an industrial environment, but the gap will close. It has always closed and will continue to close in every industry in existence. Today, we can develop high-quality prints of photos from digital negatives with an in-store machine. We can print and bind nearly any book with an in-store machine. We can press a CD or DVD with a color label with a simple machine. We can quickly produce a custom PCB board with a simple machine. These things have come down to the consumer scale, even if machines that can do even better exist.

The same will happen with 3D printers. You're going to have everything from a home machine capable of printing toys, widgets, and useful household items; you're going have large machines capable of printing houses and ship hulls; and you're going to have everything in-between. I for one can't wait for the day when I can print my own customized CD shelf or cup holder. :)

Re:Implications are obvious (3, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#18622179)

However, the fact that I can print out 2D images at home does not stop me from going to the local print shop when I want something printed. They have the advantage of economies of scale, so even with their mark-up, they can do a much better job for cheaper. For simple black and white text, a home laser/inkjet printer will do, but for more complex color photos/documents, then I would definitely take it to a print shop or photo centre. And if I'm going to print off 1 million copies of a book or magazine, I'm going to use an industrial quality printing press. I think the same thing would happen for 3D printing. For very simple object where tolerances for quality are low, you could print them at home, for more complex objects that you just need a small run of, take it down to your local 3D printing shop. And for situations where you need hiqh quality and mass production, you're still going to see large manufacturing facilities.

Re:Implications are obvious (1)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621765)

I humbly disagree.

I predict that, instead of scanning and printing, people will just design 3D objects in a CAD-like application, and then print them in a 3D printer. As far as copying existing items, human intelligence will do the difficult parts of 'scanning' and re-creating the design of, say, a Ferarri, as a 3D model.

Re:Implications are obvious (1)

Lockejaw (955650) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621779)

The other problem with rapid prototyping is that the materials available aren't always the best for whatever the part's function will be. I've only had a couple encounters with rapid prototyping machines, but none of them really used materials designed for high-stress situations.

Re:Implications are obvious (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621945)

I agree and disagree. a nut, bolt, are perfect things for 3D printing. Even custom frames. I can see a day not to far off in the future for the rapid replication of such objects.

But what about a calculator. A simple calculator is more than just the outside shell, and screws but also the components. Those can't be replicated in such a fashion. The screen is built with different techniquies from the hard plastic case. The circuit boards will have to be built by a second machine, and chips a third.

Combining them all properly is what makes this design of rabid prototyping a poor choice. You can build a model of a house or plane, but not of next years computer.

Re:Implications are obvious (2, Interesting)

coredog64 (1001648) | more than 7 years ago | (#18622069)

You are fucking high if you think a nut or a bolt are perfect things for printing.

Fasteners are more than just physical objects with a particular shape -- they also depend on the intrinsic material properties. You know, stuff that's only imparted by forging, heat treating, etc. If you don't believe me, try this as an experiment:

Go out into your garage, remove a/the cylinder head cover from your car's engine, remove a cylinder head bolt, heat it cherry red with a blowtorch and put it back. Dollars to doughnuts you'll soon be making a tow-truck assisted trip to your local dealership.

Re:Implications are obvious (1)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 7 years ago | (#18622177)

Yep. We still cant make decent photos at home. Its still a better deal and better quality to get your prints developed commercially. Thats a 2D piece of paper. The 3D revolution has been in 'any day now' for a long time and I believe belongs in the category of things not economically viable. It is a boon to small and medium size businesses who outsource their fabrication equipment. Now they can make little prototypes in shop. Neat, but not a revolution. These business can drop multiple thousands of dollars on one of these machines and hire people to work with them properly. Joe "Whats a USB"
  Sixpack, not so much.

Re:Implications are obvious (1)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621307)

You'll likely see similar things to what you see with companies like Oracle today. You can now download their database software for free. But if you want support and their expertise its going to cost you.

It doesn't matter how advanced these fabrication technologies get a well assembled factory line (using these technologies as well) will always be able to make a product cheaper than a generalized fabrication machine. Especially as you will need someone or something to put the parts together anyways.. And you can expect proper support and maintenances from the real thing as well.

Re:Implications are obvious (2, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621433)

When you think about it, modern society is moving more and more to the production of "intellectual property" (i.e. an idea as something you can own) rather than the production of physical goods.

You know, in Star Trek this lead to everything becoming "free," ushering in a utopia where the only "work" people did was stuff they enjoyed doing. Too bad that, instead, we'll just enact a bunch of draconian laws to artificially induce scarcity again...

Re:Implications are obvious (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621703)

Too bad that, instead, we'll just enact a bunch of draconian laws to artificially induce scarcity again...

I don't think so. First, most products capable of being 3D-printed, that already exist today, will be freely reproducible, or some close enough version. Second, if people are designing new products specifically for this device (i.e. they are only profitable to make with 3D printers), and it would not otherwise be designed without IP in that design, the IP laws would only induce scarcity in an object that would otherwise be infinitely scarce.

Re:Implications are obvious (2, Insightful)

AndersOSU (873247) | more than 7 years ago | (#18622029)

I hope your being facetious, but at least one mod didn't thinks so, so please ignore the moderately harsh things I'm about to say if you really don't believe the things you've said.

First Star-Trek isn't real. I'm sorry, but neither is the easter bunny. If anything can be duplicated cheaply people will only do the stuff they enjoy doing, but no work will be done. Society will stagnate, innovation will come to a halt, and the social consequences will be immense. Perhaps no one would go without, but I'd hardly call it utopian.

If someone is able to invent a replicator (probably impossible due to the energy requirements for arbitrarily re-orienting atoms) no amount of draconian laws would be able to put that genie back in the bottle. Imagine the police come to arrest me within days of inventing the the very first replicator. There are a couple of ways that could play out. Either I've already replicated enough replicators and handed them out to my friends and exponential growth has made it unstoppable. Or, I've holed myself up in a fortress and set about replicating the types of wepons required to fend off a small army - or replicated myself an ICBM and entered my self into the MAD proposition. Even if they were able to successfully stop me from distributing my machine, someone would be interested enough to focus their research in a similar direction and it would only be a matter of time before they succeeded, and avoided learned from the mistakes that prevented me from getting my inverntion out.

Humans aren't wired to behave that way (3, Insightful)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 7 years ago | (#18622215)

First Star-Trek isn't real. I'm sorry, but neither is the easter bunny. If anything can be duplicated cheaply people will only do the stuff they enjoy doing, but no work will be done. Society will stagnate, innovation will come to a halt, and the social consequences will be immense.

Yeah really! Why, it's just like if people could freely duplicate software. There would be no motivation at all to improve it, and innovation would come to a halt! Oh wait.. what about Open Source...

Humans are not wired to behave the way in which you describe. People get bored doing nothing. All you have to look at for am example of this is the number of people who are perfectly financially secure who return to work anyway, because they are bored with retirement.

People's brains needs stimulus. Even if you consider games and other entertainment - if no one makes new entertainment, then the current supply will be quickly exhausted, and the populace will become bored again. At that point, they will start doing creative things they enjoy.

And none of this would "stifle innovation". What about all the dreamers who want to explore space and beyond, or to understand how the physical universe works in more detail? These people will always continue research and innovation - the difference is they will be able to innovate HOW they want and WHEN they want, without being constrained to rules of artificial scarcity or need for essentials, since all their materials would be "free" to them via their replicator.

Really, replicator instantly solve a vast amount of global issues. You no longer have hunger. You no longer have theft since there is no value in stolen objects. You no longer have a "drug problem" since everyone who wants rugs can replicate themselves into a stupor without harming anyone else, and darwinian processes will quickly weed people with those addictive tenancies into oblivion. Likewise, there will be little need for war since there are no resources to argue over, and even if there were you would be assured of mutual destruction since anyone can replicate any weapons they can imagine.

Digital food (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18621443)

A modern individual has the capability of mastering their own music and movies, post-processing and distributing their own photographs in both digital and physical form, creating their own PCB-based electronics, designing their own Microprocessors, building their own vehicles (airplanes are a big one!), and many other tasks that used to require massive resources and tens-to-hundreds of emlpoyees.

I can grow my own food, too, and have done so. What happens when someone copyrights corn's DNA? Monsanto has already patented genetic sequences, and sued farmers who grew food contaminated by Monsanto's GM crap.

Have none of you ever seen Star Trek? We are rapidly heading in that direction. 3D printers are the first step toward the "matter replicator". What happens when these 3D printers are microscopic, printing molecule by molecule or atom by atom?


Re:Implications are obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18621543)

It will never be cheaper to "3-D print" something than it is to produce it in large numbers by conventional manufacturing techniques. Ink jet printers are cheap and common, but you'd never use one to print a phone book.

Believe it or not, it's already very easy to duplicate physical shapes, especially if you don't care about matching the material. Anyone can make a mold from an object easily then knock off as many duplicates as he likes. Manufacturers already know that any object they sell can be copied by a competitor or a private citizen, and they already use copyright to stop it.

Re:Implications are obvious (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621983)

It may not ever be cheaper to 3d print something at home than it would be for the manufacturer to produce it in mass quantities, but it might very well someday be cheaper to 3d print something than it costs the home user to buy it from the supplier or retailer. And there's a rather inflexible limit to how far they can lower the cost of goods for the consumer because not all of the cost of the goods is proportional to the just the material cost of the product. Some of it, for instance, goes towards paying the salaries or wages of the people responsible for the product's continued distribution. These extra costs would not be faced by people doing home 3d printing, so it could very well end up cheaper to do it at home than it would be to buy it.

Re:Implications are obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18621623)

When you think about it, modern society is moving more and more to the production of "intellectual property" (i.e. an idea as something you can own)

Except that there are unique difficulties with the concept of owning an idea which did not apply to ownership of objects (or land).

Once an idea is in someone else's brain, it is no longer under the control of the original owner. That person can think about it, act upon it, and transmit it, all without any involvement of the owner whatsoever. The business of preventing the person from doing this is much, much more difficult than it ever was with physical property.

When people have replicators, they will consider it reasonable that they should be able to use them without paying royalties to someone who owns the idea of whatever it is they are making. People will ignore and/or reject intellectual property laws because they will be seen as unreasonable and far too limiting.

I agree that life will go on, but the technologies which empower people to do even more with ideas, and to trade them even more efficiently, will force the issue of intellectual freedom. The problem of "incentives to create" will not be solvable by more intellectual property legislation, because the masses will go well out of their way to dishonor it. Instead, new business models with a different emphasis will emerge. This is, IMO, an inevitable consequence of the emerging technologies and basic human nature.

Re:Implications are obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18622143)

About 15 years ago I used to sell to a company that did 3D imaging and then made a computer generated prototype of the outside of the object. It didn't upset the world.

As to copyrighting, I assume that it will be required that all such equipment sold in most countries will be required to have an unseen identifier put into the copy, to identify the "printer", just as color laser printers do now. Either that, or an image will have to be emailed to a central copyright directory place that will "look over" the scanned images for copyright infringement. Then the "MPIA(Manufactured Part Industry of America)" will send threatening letters to anyone suspected of scanning or printing such an object. grin.

Non-Usable (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621083)

In most cases, from the examples I've seen, the rapid prototyping tools can't currently create a durable item, nor can they create moving parts to any great degree. The items are only made of a single material that is not exceptionally strong. Of course, it's possible that I'm as out of touch as usual.

Re:Non-Usable (1)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621221)

"rapid" prototyping no. But there are small scale fabrication technologies out there that can. They take a bit longer, and most of them need someone to assemble moving parts, but the technology is progressing. The models of these run in the $100K to $1M mark.

Re:Non-Usable (1)

qwijibo (101731) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621551)

I think the cost of materials is the catch. While you may be able to download the digrams of parts for a Ferrari, there is value in all of the raw materials needed and the assembly of all of those components. While you can take a diagram and machine a part from the diagram using the correct materials, you have to start with a block of the material larger than the end component. As you pointed out, the prototypes can be very expensive compared to the components that would be manufactured on a large scale.

I have faith that the legal implications will be worked out as soon as someone produces the first Faux-rari. Making it for personal use would likely be treated differently from someone trying to sell it. Of course, the RIAA would insist that the existence of the prototype producing machine is conclusive proof that you intended to use it to make copies of every piece of IP they have or will ever own.

Re:Non-Usable (4, Interesting)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621485)

from the examples I've seen, the rapid prototyping tools can't currently create a durable item

This has been changing. Modern printers use much stronger materials based on resins similar to those used in Legos. So if you need a plastic part, you should be able to print one of reasonable strength. For example, I could see a huge market for toys on demand much in the way that books are slowly moving to print on demand.

nor can they create moving parts to any great degree

It's fairly rare to be able to create a moveable part in a single mold. Usually, you create a variety of parts, then assemble them. When this starts to catch on with consumers, I imagine you'll first see products coming in many parts with "some assembly required". Later revisions of the technology might include robotic assemblers that construct devices in a manner similar to how PODs are now able to print and bind nearly any book. While the precise assembly options may not be comprehensive, model developers will know the limitations of the machines and attempt to modify their models so that they're more easily assembled by the robotics.

Also, there is an issue of scale that needs to be considered. There's nothing preventing a larger 3D printer from printing in concretes or metals. In fact, there was a story here a few weeks ago about a 3D printer that could construct a house in a few days. But why stop there? Ship hulls, car bodies, air foils, and many other items which are so large as to be difficult to mold could conceivably be printed instead. In many cases it may even be advantageous, as the part will be producable as a single object with no seams or rivets. This can potentially strengthen the object overall. Chemical agents can also be used to treat the object for better strength and endurance.

Obviously, the technology is just getting started. But it has been making great strides in the short time it's been available. Give it a decade or two more and the necessary material injection techniques and production methods will get most of the bugs worked out. :)

Re:Non-Usable (2, Insightful)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621493)

That's basically right. People really need to "get a grip" as to what a 3D printer is capable of. You can't scan an arbitrary device and make a copy. If it's assembled from mutliple components, you'd have to scan each component (typcially requiring irreversible disassembly or the original device) and assemble it back together. That's why they're working with individual Lego pieces! You'd also be limited on materials by what materials the 3D printer can use.

I suspect that this will get easier, since it may lead designers to make "all of one piece" versions of products, and store them in a file format for easier duplication, but it has its limits.

Re:Non-Usable (5, Informative)

peterwayner (266189) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621503)

There are a wide variety of technologies in the marketplace and each have their advantages. Alas, I couldn't write a survey. The Z Corp models look flashy in the pictures because they're in full color, but they're probably not the strongest.

  Some of the other systems from companies like Dimension or Stratasys use stronger plastics but can't produce multicolored items.
Some can produce fully working items right from the printer . They deposit two types of material: one soluable and one insoluable. After the thing is printed, you wash away the soluable stuff and the gaps open up. It's amazing. I've played with fully adjustable crescent wrenches that are built with almost the same precision as the ones from Sears. The plastic isn't as durable as metal, but you can certainly build things with the wrench. I'm told one of the cooler demonstration items is a bicycle chain that's fully assembled after the wash.

In some sense, these pre-assembled machines are better than traditional manufacturing techniques because you can build working items inside of sealed shells. There's no ship-in-a-bottle paradox because everything is built from the bottom up.

Re:Non-Usable (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18621925)

Except, if the shell is sealed, how does the solvent get inside to free up the moving parts?

Re:Non-Usable (3, Funny)

innerweb (721995) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621511)

In most cases, from the examples I've seen, the rapid prototyping tools can't currently create a durable item

From my purchasing experiences in the past decade, it seems most items are not durable anyway. ;-)


Re:Non-Usable (1)

Provocateur (133110) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621997)

For those of us (myself included) that have a hard time grasping the concept, and the ramifications, we'll have to wait for the next movie to feature this next-gen technological marvel as used by the esteemed Jeff Goldblum. And to answer the question on your mind, no, scouring the various porno clips to see if that industry has found a use for it already, won't work in this case.

Star Trek really was ahead of its time (1)

Valacosa (863657) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621135)

There's a reason why Star Trek didn't have our economic system - in a world where almost anything can be replicated, goods based economies become impotent.

As 3D printing becomes more common, there's going to be a lot of fighting between entrenched manufacturers and "pirates" (just as there is now fighting between entrenched media and "pirates") but in the end, the technology always wins out.

Perhaps this will pave the way to a new economic system...

Re:Star Trek really was ahead of its time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18621415)

I is impotent, might as well look impotent too.

Re:Star Trek really was ahead of its time (0, Troll)

badfish99 (826052) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621479)

That's why Star Trek depicts a society run by the military. If making physical objects were almost free, like copying music is now, the only way to prevent "piracy" would be to have an extremely repressive government. And just think what a terrorist group would do if they got hold of a transporter.

Re:Star Trek really was ahead of its time (3, Funny)

cosinezero (833532) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621629)

They'd... make armies of half-man, half-flies?

Or perhaps it won't (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621725)

When it can replicate complex biological objects (eg a piece of food) or electronic or mechanical objects that work then maybe. Until then it'll just be high tech woodwork.

Lego isn't copyrighted? (3, Informative)

MrLogic17 (233498) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621143)

"The experiments were done with Legos because most of the things around his office were protected by copyright"

Um, the Lego folks might want to have a word with him...

Re:Lego isn't copyrighted? (1)

Bloke down the pub (861787) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621625)

If he'd been using lego bricks he might be in trouble. Luckily, there's no such thing as legos [] so he should get away with it.

Re:Lego isn't copyrighted? (1)

vandoravp (709954) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621869)

He isn't duplicating the bricks themselves, but rather using the bricks to build an object, then duplicating the object as a solid form that just happens to look like assembled bricks.

Heh. They think LEGO doesn't have copyright? (0, Redundant)

everphilski (877346) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621183)

Re:Heh. They think LEGO doesn't have copyright? (2, Insightful)

peterwayner (266189) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621787)

They might have a case if I duplicated individual blocks. But the spaceship design was my own and there's no way to disassemble it into the pieces. Furthermore, the construction mechanism effectively stripped away large parts of each individual piece because it didn't duplicate the hidden surfaces. I probably didn't duplicate more than 20% of the surface of the average piece-- and I didn't duplicate any of the functional parts that helped the pieces grip each other.

I did consider using modeling clay, but I'm not a great artist.

Obvious usage (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18621195)

Great! I bagsies the first one to make a life size anatomically correct Jenna Jameson

Re:Obvious usage (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18621499)

I think her mum beat you to it...

Re:Obvious usage (1)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621835)

As long as it's Jenna circa 1990... she's getting a little old yo...

Re:Obvious usage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18622203)

According to Wikipedia, circa 1990 would make her 16.

It means IP conflicts move from media to 3D stuff (1)

mikeraz (12065) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621209)

The RIAA and MPAA will get lots of company from corporations protecting the "intellectual property" of their screws.

Scanner (3, Funny)

grub (11606) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621225)

The NextEngine scanner can only do 6" scans, so we Canadians will have to wait a few more years before desktop penis scanning is the norm.

Re:Scanner (0, Offtopic)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621275)

I was tossing (snicker) up making a penis joke, but then I thought, someone else will do it for me.

Re:Scanner (1)

jshriverWVU (810740) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621847)

lol I wish I had mod points to +5 you Funny hehe..

Re:Scanner (2, Funny)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 7 years ago | (#18622107)

Why wait? Smaller isn't a problem.

Re:Scanner (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18622187)

Mr.Canadian you probably thought 6" is the same as 6 centimeters, so don't worry, 6 inches has lots of room for 7cm.

Why is this a bad thing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18621291)

I want one of these!!! Stop sounding like the MAFIAA, and think of the good that this sort of innovation can bring. New capabilities for the common man, how horrible!

No danger yet... (1)

maillemaker (924053) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621323)

As an engineer who has dealt with rapid prototyping technologies for over 15 years, I have seen a lot of these technologies evolve.

Until the transporter is invented, I don't think we are in any danger of seeing things copied in the real world on the scale that we see them copied in the digital world. The fact is, there are still severe limitations on the mediums that rapid prototype items can be produced from, and they are still quite costly to have made. Even a small part, say the size of a disk drive, can cost a couple of hundred dollars for a physical mockup.

Re:No danger yet... (1)

peterwayner (266189) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621727)

Yes, you're right. The cost is prohibitive when compared with mass production with molded ABS. But there are many areas where I imagine it might catch on. I wouldn't be surprised if the model railroad community develops an open source collection of STL files. Anyone can download homes, train stations or what not for building out their train layout. In these areas, the price and advantage of customization will be competitive.

Major new front in the war over IP (2, Insightful)

mi (197448) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621329)

It is not just the hated RIAA, MPAA, and the software behemoths, that will be complaining of copyright infringement. Designs of material things will become targets too.

Various fashion designers are already being hurt — once they design something nice, they have to compete with (high-quality) knock-offs. The knock-offs are not produced by 3D-printing machines, but rather by hard-working laborers abroad. They can make them cheap, because they don't need to pay the genius designers — simply steal her/his designs.

Get ready for passionate Socialists arguing, that it is "not the same as stealing" — as if that's relevant, as if being "not exactly stealing" makes it acceptable somehow.

Re:Major new front in the war over IP (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18621501)

Ah, advocating extended state-granted monopolies whilst calling others (me) socialists. Perhaps the problem has more subtle shades of gray?

Re:Major new front in the war over IP (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 7 years ago | (#18622115)

You say this like it's a new thing. Clothing designers have always had their designs copied, sometimes before they themselves even offer the designs for sale to the general public.

Welcome to the real world. Fiction (Mostly SF) has been saying "What if you could effortlessly duplicate anything?" for years now. It's time for real world ideas on how to deal with a world where almost nothing is scarce. Are we going to attempt to legislate artificial scarcity, or maximum abundance and a fair way to compensate creators? Imagine a futuristic system that scanned the cultural zeitgiest and paid creators based on how often their creations were used. It wouldn't matter if it was a copy or an original, the creator would still get paid. Cue the naysayers and discuss...

Guillotine ?? (1)

The Media Mechanic (1084283) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621345) dy-2x.jpg [] ages/fig1.jpg []

Ok, First think that goes through my mind when I see these pictures... How did he get his head on this little platform ?

I wonder what is the turnover rate among new employees at Next Engine ?

Realigning teeth (3, Interesting)

greg_barton (5551) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621359)

One cool application of rapid prototyping I've seen is "invisible braces." Essentially a mold of your mouth is taken, then a computer model is created of where you teeth should be. A series of hard plastic mouth molds is then created that "morphs" your mouth from the reality to the desired. The molds are created using the rapid prototyping.

Here's [] the company site. No, I'm not a shill. :)

Re:Realigning teeth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18622185)

I just started on these about a month ago. The technology is still kinda new, but it's amazing 1) to see the model of your teeth on the computer, and 2) to get the braces, put them in your mouth, and realize that they fit _your_ teeth exactly (or will once your teeth shift into conformity). They're currently a little more expensive than regular braces, but I imagine the price will continue to come down as manufacturing matures, market share increases, etc. (or not, who knows.)

The braces themselves are very near invisible - at least, they are very, very much less visible than regular braces. I talked a little funny for a couple of days, but adapted soon enough. The most annoying thing is needing to brush my teeth after eating or drinking anything other than water. Not that I'm complaining.

Anyway, I'll agree that this application is very real and very cool.

Craftsmanship (4, Interesting)

backwardMechanic (959818) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621369)

Maybe we will see a return to craftsmanship and individually crafted items. 3D printing is really the final stage in mass production - the same thing, reproduced over and over, rather than adapted to the wants or needs of a particular user. Imagine a world where you go to your local computer/car/furniture shop to discuss exactly what shape you'd like, what colour, materials, etc. Or, if you're happy with the same item as everybody else, it'll just keep getting cheaper.

Doesn't matter. (1)

Bongo Bill (853669) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621371)

I believe the answer to that is entirely up to the manufacturers, isn't it? It's not our responsibility to keep their business model profitable.

overclocked (1)

dns_server (696283) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621373)

Read Cory Doctorow's overclocked [] which is a collection of short stories. Relevant to this technology is Printcrime and After the Siege. The stories are under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 license so give them a look.

LEGO bricks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18621401)

Not "Legos". Can't we have a little respect for the coolest toy ever?

non-story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18621409)

"What will it mean when 3D fabricators become cheap and common?"
Oh teh nooeess!!! People will be able to make cheap, non-functional copies of stuff from soft plastic!!!!

"What will happen to the economy for engineering when we can just download a pirated description of a machine and 'print' it out? "
You've been able to do that for many years now. Just find a decent set of CAD drawings for the machine you want and "print" them to a CNC mill. Or lathe. Or CNC plasma cutter. Or whatever, not that I'd expect hacks from the NYT to know about any of that. Making a true, functional copy of anything worth while requires knowing a lot more than jsut the external dimensions. What material should be used? If it's made from aluminum then is it going to need to be anodized? If it's metal then does it need to be hardened or annealled? And I won't even go into the obviousl issues of programming electronics.

He claims he used Legos for the article because they were the only non-copyrighted stuff in his office. More likely Legos were the only things in his office that were simple enough to duplicated and made functional. Even something simple like a pen or pencil is too complex.

Seems like someone is shorting 3D printer stocks (1)

vivaoporto (1064484) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621423)

New Technology Could Lead To 3D Printers []

3D Printers To Build Houses []

A 3D Printer On Every Desktop? []

What's up with that? When any of these products pass the vaporware state, then it is newsworthy. Until then, it seems like someone is really interested in free publicity for non-existent or non-affordable products.

Re:Seems like someone is shorting 3D printer stock (3, Informative)

peterwayner (266189) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621663)

One of the reasons I wrote the piece is because things are getting pretty cheap. Not Game Boy cheap, but something that's in line with the historical cost of photography. We're not at the introductory price of a Kodak Brownie (supposedly $1 in 1900), but we're near the price of early cameras when adjusted for inflation. The NextEngine costs $2500 new and the print shops will build items for about $70-$200.

We're getting near affordability for the "prosumer" who might want a hobby. I can imagine that these devices might be very useful to model train hobbiests, artists, and others. One artist I know builds Joseph Cornell-like boxes filled with historical scenes. They're great, really.

Re:Seems like someone is shorting 3D printer stock (1)

EMeta (860558) | more than 7 years ago | (#18622017)

I think the idea is that on a news for nerds site, one might want a preview of things that may be available in the future. I, for one, am fascinated by this technology and its ramifications for the future of manufacturing. TFA mentions several current applications, posters have mentioned more--so it's not just vaporware. As material processing improves (and we will see more material scientists looking into printable materials-my guess is some exponential growth in this field), more economical applications will open up.

But even if it were complete vaporware, if work is progressing on it--and /.ers can point out how much longer it's likely to be vapor, then it is of vast service to me, as a reader, to know about it before it's in production.

If this is just something you're not interested in, then don't bother reading the article or comments.

Star Trek won't happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18621537)

The thing about assuming piracy would be rampant with such a system is forgetting that there is still cost of materials for the machine to build the "copied" objects. The economy won't just disappear, like Star Trek TNG claims.

Besides, much can be copied TODAY, by engineers (mostly in China! haha) And what is the solution to THAT problem?

I do cringe at the thought of having to obtain licenses to produce simple art sculpture or replacement parts for something I own which is broken. The big IP creators will want DRM schemes and official licensing!

A little work (1)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621541)

I don't know, NextEngine's scan of Han looks like he didn't make it out of the carbonite in one piece. This scanning technology could use a little work.

Paper jams (4, Funny)

eck011219 (851729) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621575)

Good God, think of the paper jams. They're bad enough now, but imagine having to sit there picking pieces of a blender out of the printer ...

Re:Paper jams (2, Funny)

coredog64 (1001648) | more than 7 years ago | (#18622155)

Samir: No, not again. I... why does it say paper jam when there is no paper jam? I swear to God, one of these days, I just kick this piece of shit out the window

good for car parts, still lousy for complex stuff (1)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621579)

Something like a left-side car chassis part that you need based on a flip of a right-side piece, could be easy to copy. Since it's a smooth, uncomplicated, single-material object that has to be symmetrical to the other half of the car. Stuff like on Star Trek, i.e. cooked + prepared food, is still a LONG ways off.

Re:good for car parts, still lousy for complex stu (1)

AndersOSU (873247) | more than 7 years ago | (#18622191)

But why would printing car parts ever be cheaper than just stamping metal? Sure maybe you could make arbitrarily shaped fiberglass-like parts (which is why it's called rapid prototyping, but if you are going to mass-produce it, how much would it cost to make a mold or die when compared to the total cost of all the raw materials?

Shouldnt be a problem (1)

jshriverWVU (810740) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621587)

In regards to "downloading pirated 3d models" it shouldnt be a problem. Because 3d printers, aren't actually making full functional objects. They're creating 3d models of what the object looks like but entirely made out of plastics. So it's not like you can scan your computer and tell it to just make a dup, it doesnt work that way, unless you want a real-world size plastic replica. *shrug*

Ecological footprint? (3, Insightful)

pzs (857406) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621593)

In my view, any revolutionary new technology has to try to not to destroy the planet any more than we are already.

Widespread 3D printers will probably mean that we buy less pre-fabricated items from shops, which will reduce shipping. However I presume the energy efficiency (and whatever the equivalent of a toner cartridge for 3D) will be a lot worse per unit for a home printer than a mass production unit. What about waste products? Will this encourage the throwaway society even further?

It also reminds me of this: []

which might be a nice idea, but it's an enormous use of energy for something we can do perfectly well without a machine.


Re:Ecological footprint? (2, Insightful)

mlk (18543) | more than 7 years ago | (#18622199)

You need one that can recycle its previously created items. Pull stuff apart as well as build it.

Won't someone think of the IP?!!! (3, Insightful)

ArchAngelQ (35053) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621645)

Seriously here folks. The level of paranoia over the whole IP issue is really getting out of hand. It's an as yet unsolved problem, yes, but why in the heck is it more important than the practical, useful application of such a shift in a new(ish), exciting technology?

Rapid prototyping/3d fabrication is becoming cheaper. You know what that will allow, more than anything? It'll allow competition by the little guy, to produce their own items and test them without the expense of the full production process for a lot of different things. That will mean that skill at design and meeting the real needs of customers will become more attainable by more people, and overall costs will go down.

It's like the commoditization of computer hardware that happened in the late 80's for the consumer sector, and late 90's for the mid-range server sector, and what's happening to the software sector right now. Who's allowed to feasibly compete for customer's money will become a more level playing field, which will cut into the biggest producers profits somewhat, as more people compete, but the big players that adopt the technology will ultimately win out over the big players who don't, and the little guys will generally stay little, with either have a few breakthrough big boom companies, or the few big growers get squashed/eaten if enough of the big players catch a clue fast enough. The latter happened with the hardware market, the former is happening with the software market (google).

Re:Won't someone think of the IP?!!! (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 7 years ago | (#18622055)

Because if you patent and copyright everything in sight, then you can eliminate the little guy from cutting into your profits.

It's been insane in the software world, I know of many OSS devs that use a pseudonym when they program and only release from foreign servers to avoid the patent bullshit that has been going on for years now.

Capitalist societies approaching Communism (2, Insightful)

mi (197448) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621675)

And I mean the Communist utopia, not the grim reality of the attempts to build Communism forcefully.

As some old-timers may know, Marx [] was pointing out, that social order(s) are a product of the production capacity. As the humans' ability to produce things (food, clothing, vehicles, houses, anything...) evolved, so did the social orders. This is the part of his teachings, that no one really disagrees over.

He then argued, that Communism — which Soviet People were busily building, supposedly, while living under the less perfect Socialism — will become possible, when the means of production evolve even further, to the point where Communism's principle of distribution of goods: "From each by their ability, to each by their needs," — will come into being.

Ironically, it is the Capitalist societies, that are quickly approaching that benchmark. More and more things are given out free or for next to nothing to more and more people. Officially "poor" people have cars and TV-sets, and are entitled to substantial give-aways of food...

TFA discusses a major "harbinger" of yet another possible production increase, which promises to allow goods to be produced closer, to where they will be used (presumably, delivery of raw materials will be easier/cheaper). Hurray!

Re:Capitalist societies approaching Communism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18622205)

Though, according to Marx and Engels this is right in line with the Communist theory. Communism is an evolutionary result of Capitalism, not a mutually exclusive philosophy.
The fact that the Capitalist system is producing the means and ways of a "pure" Communist society is something that Marx and Engels would not have been one bit surprised about. This apparent dichotomy of two truly interdependant philosophies is outlined over the first two chapters of The Communist Manifesto.

Big economic boom, but LOTS of violence (3, Interesting)

argoff (142580) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621729)

What will hhappen to the economy for engineering when we can just download a pirated description of a machine and 'print' it out?

The biggest economic boom in the history of human kind.

After the information age society is going to move into the replication age and manufacturing is going to shift from the factory back into the home. But the factory infrastructure won't go away - instead it will retool and go big. Mile long ships, mile high buildings, air ships as big as cities that have cities in them are just some of the possibilities. Society will become an invention service society.

One other thing. When invention commoditizes, the patent system will die - Just like the information age forced the commoditisation of information and the death of copyrights, and the industrial revolution forced the commoditisation of labor and the violent death of the plantation system. That is why it is so important THAT WE MUST KILL PATENTS!!!!! Think about it, you can't control information with physical force, but with invention you can. That is why the death of copyrights will involve lots of lawsuits but little physical violence. That won't be the case when killing the patent system. WE MUST KILL PATENTS NOW BECAUSE IF WE DONT THERE WILL BE AWFULL VIOLENCE.

Re:Big economic boom, but LOTS of violence (1)

Bloke down the pub (861787) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621889)

air ships as big as cities that have cities in them
I'm fascinated by your theory of nested conurbations and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

Old news (1)

feydakin (161035) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621737)

We've been using rapid prototyping and CAD in the jewelry trade for more than 5 years now.. Desktop printers are available for $30k and high end production boxes for as little as $80k..

The hardest part of this has been finding ways to keep older, traditional, craftsmen involved in the process while at the same time streamlining production and reducing costs.. Like any new tech there are those that will adapt and find new business models and those that learn to say "Welcome to Wal-Mart"..

Obligitory Link.... (3, Informative)

fotbr (855184) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621745)

Rep-Rap [] The open-source rapid prototyping system.

Ann Summers will worried. (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621771)

In 10 years boyfriends everywhere will be wondering why their women spend so long upstairs in the bedrooms with the printer going all the time.

Normal progression (1)

boyfaceddog (788041) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621809)

1) Manufactuers use the printers to create parts for mass production
2) Smaller manufacturer get cheaper copies of the printers and use those to create entire devices (piece by piece)
3) Robotic assembly takes over at large Mfgs and the entire process is automated at the top level, and then at smaller levels
4) Eventually an Ikea-like store is created where parts are created as needed, eliminating warehouses for kit-based home assembly
5) personal 3D printers reach the masses and people download couches from the Ikea-like retailer, then from more complex retailers (far future)
6) TRANSPORTER invented and this repeats. :-)

3D xerox machine? (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621819)

If and when a 3D xerox machine is avaialble, would it be considered a self-replicating Turing machine?

RP Model Limitations Currently... (1)

BoRegardless (721219) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621823)

I create 3D models and then Rapid Prototypes, and the current state of the art in RP parts is OK for light duty checking of looks and fit.

If you need higher strength and toughness like is commonly expected from Polyethylene to Polypropylene to Polycarbonates, and particularly when it is in thinner sections, current RP materials don't even come close to the physical properties of finish injection molded parts.

In terms of accuracy and surface finish RP models will not be able to match the smooth accurate even surfaces of molded parts, as RP models are created in discrete layers, layer by layer. Until those layers could be brought down extremely small (meaning enormously increasing processing times), the surface finish will always be "rough".

You get what you pay for.

stereolithography has a lot to tell (1)

GenKreton (884088) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621825)

This technology has been around since Stereolithography was first produced around 1986. The prices haven't gotten any cheaper since then. Some methods are slow enough to take days while the quicker ones are limited in the materials they can use and then not to be as dimensionally accurate. If they are not dimensionally accurate enough many things like tolerances on fittings could be produced as interference fits instead of clearance fits and such. And discounting that, the cheapest rapid prototyper starts around 30k USD and only uses starches. They also need to be post-processed hardened by wax... Not all of the methods are "office friendly" to boot. Many use powder and liquids that are messy and not always safe. The nicer machines run upwards of 800K USD and are limited to parts less than 2x2x2 feet.

There is quite a long time before we need to be worried about these things - the past 21 years proves that it is a slow, hard to develop technology.

Re:stereolithography has a lot to tell (1)

mlk (18543) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621895)

A while back was an article here " A 3D Printer On Every Desktop? [] " is how to build your own 3D printer for ~$2.3K.

And it will become obsolete because (0, Offtopic)

sobolwolf (1084585) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621857)

of nanotech

Diamond Age (1)

sofla (969715) | more than 7 years ago | (#18621927)

Reminds me a bit of Neal Stephenson's novel, Diamond Age.

A very slow replicator (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18621943)

And the worst part? You need to assemble it yourself once the printer finish printing, and it comes with a warning label, "Substance may contain toxin and not suitable for human ingestion".

"Piracy" has no meaning any more (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18622025)

I hope people will realize and accept this, without us having a bloody court holocaust.


A is for Anything (1)

MadMagician (103678) | more than 7 years ago | (#18622071)

When the fabricator can fabricate a copy of itself, then comes the revolution.

A wargamer's dream.... (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 7 years ago | (#18622077)

The ability to cheaply produce miniatures in almost any quantity that a home consumer might need or want right in one's own home would be a boon to players of miniatures games everywhere.

This is Arthur C Clarke's Duplicator, isn't it ..? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18622207)

And you remember what he said about that..

'It will be the last machine which will ever be made'

convex (1)

radarsat1 (786772) | more than 7 years ago | (#18622221)

It means we can look forward to a bleak future characterized by a distinct lack of non-convex shapes.
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