The implications of consumer 3d printing

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Tyndmyr
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The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Aug 27, 2012 4:44 pm UTC

So, I've been toying with my new 3d printer for...about two weeks now? And sure, they're a blast. But as I research, I run across very, very different things. I mean, sure, you find all the crazy stuff like "printing handguns" as per Distributed Defense, but even cursory investigation shows them to be little more than a dream and some publicity. In actual practices, there's a *lot* of iphone cases and similar stuff out there. So, I'm curious, what do you think the actual implications of this tech will be as the cost and availability of the tech pushes it into the more mainstream consumer market?

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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby Sheikh al-Majaneen » Mon Aug 27, 2012 4:54 pm UTC

Had this drunken discussion some three weeks ago. If somebody broke into Jay Leno's garage (thirty years from now), copied one of his cars, and printed a hundred of them, has a crime been committed (besides breaking and entering)? There would certainly be people claiming a violation of the car manufacturer's intellectual property. Doesn't quite answer your question, sorry.

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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby Azrael » Mon Aug 27, 2012 5:06 pm UTC

I think it's going to take a while (maybe a very long while) before Cube 3D or MakerBot or their brethren move out of anything but a hobbyist niche in the consumer market. That being said, I do think that third party, consumer-friendly companies using larger and more sophisticated machines (Fortus and the likes) are going to provide some really interesting business opportunities. The boon to small inventors or aspiring industrial designers may be a Photoshop-like turning point.

I don't know when/if it would actually happen, but I can see a possibility in the spare/replacement parts industry. Given a large enough part database, plus the growth in 3D scanning technologies (like Faro's) it would eliminate the need to keep physical inventory. On the other hand, I don't know if it would fit (or alter) the ever-increasingly disposable consumer products market. More likely, it will just result in those companies that offer cheap, company-logo personalized give-aways having another whole avenue to make soon to be trash.

3D printing already had a fairly significant impact in industry, albeit one that is (as of yet) still mostly hidden to the consumer. The really cool advances are coming (here, in some cases) in doing 3D printing with heavily filled and non-polymer matrices -- I have this really cool, astoundingly intricate tungsten shielded part sitting here on my desk. I don't know that too many major advances will be driven when the fabrication of certain parts becomes feasible, but a lot of cost, lot size and physical miniaturization is possible -- which always ends up driving a wider distribution of technologies that weren't previously available to the consumer.

What 3D printing can't do yet -- and where the real break through may come -- is depositing a fine enough resolution and a sufficiently fine surface finish to allow for intricate (working) mechanical assemblies. Sure, just about every company prints some version of the ball bearing demo, but they don't really function.

I'm also curious where 3D printing and printer circuit boards might intersect. Internet-based quick-turn houses already exist using the standard methods, so I'm not sure if there's really much room for improvement.

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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Aug 27, 2012 5:30 pm UTC

Sheikh al-Majaneen wrote:Had this drunken discussion some three weeks ago. If somebody broke into Jay Leno's garage (thirty years from now), copied one of his cars, and printed a hundred of them, has a crime been committed (besides breaking and entering)? There would certainly be people claiming a violation of the car manufacturer's intellectual property. Doesn't quite answer your question, sorry.


Looking at just the copying? Well...I don't think so. I mean, if I see your car, and build one to look like it, there's no crime, right? No crime in taking a picture of it? There's apps now that convert your cameraphone picture into a 3d image. They're imperfect, but as stitching improves, the tech'll get there. The fact that building a replica of a physical object is now easier should not impact the legality of doing so. At least, it shouldn't in my opinion.

Azrael wrote:I think it's going to take a while (maybe a very long while) before Cube 3D or MakerBot or their brethren move out of anything but a hobbyist niche in the consumer market. That being said, I do think that third party, consumer-friendly companies using larger and more sophisticated machines (Fortus and the likes) are going to provide some really interesting business opportunities. The boon to small inventors or aspiring industrial designers may be a Photoshop-like turning point.

What 3D printing can't do yet -- and where the real break through may come -- is depositing a fine enough resolution and a sufficiently fine surface finish to allow for intricate (working) mechanical assemblies. Sure, just about every company prints some version of the ball bearing demo, but they don't really function.


My cube's pretty decent...but there are definitely quirks, yes. I could do a decent mechanical assembly if there's a bit of scale there, but expansion is something I'm already having to compensate for in fairly simple mechanical prints. I'm gonna do a more elaborate test to see if there's a nice easy function behind this, but there definitely are some current aspects that are non-obvious to sort out before we get into complex printing on the consumer level bots. I was impressed that it could pull off a nut/bolt combo, though. That was a bit better accuracy than I'd hoped to get. The print media is still a bit on the expensive side, but if you model carefully, you can get a lot of mileage, and there are some definite advantages over injection molding.

Shapeways, while still a bit on the expensive side, also intrigues me. I haven't had them do anything mechanical for me yet...but I'm almost certainly going to explore this at some point in the future, given their variety on materials and access to high end machines.

I'm also curious where 3D printing and printer circuit boards might intersect. Internet-based quick-turn houses already exist using the standard methods, so I'm not sure if there's really much room for improvement.


I admit, looking at the temperature my printer works at and the melting temperature of solder made me seriously consider investigating this field. I haven't really played with EE stuff since college, but I can still pop out basic circuits and test them in a sim...being able to go to the real world in a exceedingly short length of time would be pretty fantastic. The ability to print both that and a more standard medium together is a bit above most machines now, but at least theoretically would greatly expand the amount of stuff the end consumer would want to print. Printing a nifty frame for a clock is all well and good, but printing an entire, working clock puts it much more on par with the type of stuff people buy from retail stores.

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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby cphite » Mon Aug 27, 2012 5:50 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:So, I've been toying with my new 3d printer for...about two weeks now? And sure, they're a blast. But as I research, I run across very, very different things. I mean, sure, you find all the crazy stuff like "printing handguns" as per Distributed Defense, but even cursory investigation shows them to be little more than a dream and some publicity. In actual practices, there's a *lot* of iphone cases and similar stuff out there. So, I'm curious, what do you think the actual implications of this tech will be as the cost and availability of the tech pushes it into the more mainstream consumer market?


Lots and lots (more) cheap garbage for the most part, at least for the first couple of years. You're going to see a lot of machines setup at the malls that let you draw a stupid little toy or key-chain or whatever and then print yourself the real thing. As it gets better you'll get better stuff - custom smartphone cases, for example.

But honestly, I think it's going to be a long time before this is used for anything truly useful on the mainstream consumer market. It's cool that you can print a wrench for example, but until printing that wrench is significantly cheaper than just making one the old fashioned way, it's never going to be more than a novelty. I think we're still a long way off from that point.

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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Aug 27, 2012 5:59 pm UTC

cphite wrote:Lots and lots (more) cheap garbage for the most part, at least for the first couple of years. You're going to see a lot of machines setup at the malls that let you draw a stupid little toy or key-chain or whatever and then print yourself the real thing. As it gets better you'll get better stuff - custom smartphone cases, for example.

But honestly, I think it's going to be a long time before this is used for anything truly useful on the mainstream consumer market. It's cool that you can print a wrench for example, but until printing that wrench is significantly cheaper than just making one the old fashioned way, it's never going to be more than a novelty. I think we're still a long way off from that point.


Marginal cost is pretty low, currently, it's the initial investment that strings. Take my cubify...it runs about $42 a cartridge of plastic, and frankly, you can print quite a lot before replacing it. I have yet to replace my first cartridge, despite running long jobs while at work/sleeping. I'm not sure of the exact amount, but I could perhaps print 50 or 60 shot glass-scaled objects before running dry. Perhaps more. That's not an unreasonably expensive production method...it's the $1300 + S&H that makes people choke. Some items, like the aforementioned iphone cases, have a higher dollar/material used ratio than shot glasses do, certainly.

It's not going to displace every plastic item based on cost, surely, but I think using purely modern technology, it can beat some.

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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby cphite » Mon Aug 27, 2012 7:00 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:
cphite wrote:Lots and lots (more) cheap garbage for the most part, at least for the first couple of years. You're going to see a lot of machines setup at the malls that let you draw a stupid little toy or key-chain or whatever and then print yourself the real thing. As it gets better you'll get better stuff - custom smartphone cases, for example.

But honestly, I think it's going to be a long time before this is used for anything truly useful on the mainstream consumer market. It's cool that you can print a wrench for example, but until printing that wrench is significantly cheaper than just making one the old fashioned way, it's never going to be more than a novelty. I think we're still a long way off from that point.


Marginal cost is pretty low, currently, it's the initial investment that strings. Take my cubify...it runs about $42 a cartridge of plastic, and frankly, you can print quite a lot before replacing it. I have yet to replace my first cartridge, despite running long jobs while at work/sleeping. I'm not sure of the exact amount, but I could perhaps print 50 or 60 shot glass-scaled objects before running dry. Perhaps more. That's not an unreasonably expensive production method...it's the $1300 + S&H that makes people choke. Some items, like the aforementioned iphone cases, have a higher dollar/material used ratio than shot glasses do, certainly.

It's not going to displace every plastic item based on cost, surely, but I think using purely modern technology, it can beat some.


I just don't see it... a shot glass is as good an example as any... let's say you can print 60 shot glasses with your $42 cartridge. That's $0.70 each. I can buy good ones (thick walls, look like glass) for $0.50 each in bulk. If they're selling for $0.50 that means the cost of production is far less. So before we even consider anything else, your cost to produce is already more than the other guys selling price.

We'll forget about the $1,300 printer cost; obviously the guy mass producing them has machinery.

But the other major issue to consider is time. How long does it take to print one shot glass? The guy with the press-mold is probably doing 5,000 in the time it takes for you to print one.

Printing may (eventually) be an option for highly specialized one-off items; but for the most part I think it's going to be stuck in the realm of novelty items, at least in the consumer market. That is, the fact that the items are printed at all will be one of their key selling points. Even for something like a phone case, I don't see your printer being cheap enough or fast enough in the foreseeable future.

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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Aug 27, 2012 7:29 pm UTC

cphite wrote:I just don't see it... a shot glass is as good an example as any... let's say you can print 60 shot glasses with your $42 cartridge. That's $0.70 each. I can buy good ones (thick walls, look like glass) for $0.50 each in bulk. If they're selling for $0.50 that means the cost of production is far less. So before we even consider anything else, your cost to produce is already more than the other guys selling price.


A shot glass is not a particularly high margin product for a given bulk of material, so it's probably not the ideal test case(in fact, nothing the consumer buys in bags of 40 is particularly likely to be. Disposable silverware is not likely to be replaced here). That said, I'm printing in ABS, and in terms of finished product...you could stand on the shot glass, and it'll be fine. It's also likely to be a slightly more complex shape than that sold in bulk for 50 cents each, so there's that as well. 3d printing is probably not aiming for the bottom of the market in terms of complexity. It gains fairly little from reductions in design complexity, while other manufacturing methods gain a great deal, or even require it.

We'll forget about the $1,300 printer cost; obviously the guy mass producing them has machinery.


Naturally. No form of mass production is going to entirely avoid initial outlay. But, for the end consumer, dropping $1300 at one time is a purchase to consider. Sure, they may well spend far in excess of that on plastic things, but even so, those are usually spread out over time.

But the other major issue to consider is time. How long does it take to print one shot glass? The guy with the press-mold is probably doing 5,000 in the time it takes for you to print one.


About 50 minutes to print one. However, due to bed size efficiencies, heatup, cooldown, etc, it's vastly more efficient to print an entire bed full of items than a single one. A grid of nine could easily fit on my particular bed, and spitballing it based on similar time estimates from other models, would probably take about an hour and a half, for a net time of perhaps ten minutes each. Here's where the startup cost becomes relevant again. I mean, sure, I can stack up multiple printers to match on time, but how many printers can I buy for the price of an injection molding machine?

Of course, there's a few more differences...retooling is one. Both require some investment, but 3d printing is an utterly flat cost. Making the model is enough, regardless of how many printers you operate. Injection molding may require multiple molds. In practice, both can be refitted fairly quickly, but making the molds is generally going to be a more expensive operation.

Printing may (eventually) be an option for highly specialized one-off items; but for the most part I think it's going to be stuck in the realm of novelty items, at least in the consumer market. That is, the fact that the items are printed at all will be one of their key selling points. Even for something like a phone case, I don't see your printer being cheap enough or fast enough in the foreseeable future.


Why not? I mean, sure, it'll have the novelty items too, but a phone case, being relatively flat, is not terribly hard on print times. If I can transform about $1 of plastic into about $20-30 of finished product in under an hour...that's a pretty decent rate, given that human interaction time is extremely minimal. This is a case where I can see localized production via printer being substantially cheaper than currently available manufacturing options. It's at the price point where a shop in a mall with a few printers could be reasonably turning a profit.

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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby Azrael » Mon Aug 27, 2012 7:40 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:This is a case where I can see localized production via printer being substantially cheaper than currently available manufacturing options. It's at the price point where a shop in a mall with a few printers could be reasonably turning a profit.

I think this is likely the way you'll see it take off. Whether it's focused first at a "stupid shit for teenagers" mall setting, or something a bit more discerning. Tie it into an internet-based order and shipping business to keep the machines running overnight. And I can really see the benefit of having a single 3D scanner too, in order to duplicate whatever a customer walks in with.

I'm willing to bet that given a decent pattern with parametrization customizations, you could sell an awful lot of semi-custom cases. The complication is going to be in the added expense of machines that can print in multiple colors, and provide more customization that typical engraving services (which have become cliche in the consumer field).

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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Aug 27, 2012 7:44 pm UTC

I do recall when I was a wee lad, and custom engraving and such was still something of a novelty. Even custom printing, the boring old 2d kind, on things like shirts, had stands occasionally.

Now, of course, everyone has a 2d printer that costs barely more than the ink in their home, and thinks nothing of it, let alone of the transfer paper, customized t-shirts, etc, etc. I haven't even been around that long, but it's definitely come a long way.

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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby jseah » Mon Aug 27, 2012 9:07 pm UTC

The plastic 3D printers are all well and good, but I don't see it taking off other than localized trinket manufacturing.

Me? I'll wait till it can print metal, moving parts and especially circuit boards before I get my own. Might be 10-20 years off though.
That's when it starts to get really useful. (Ring binders, paper clips, replacement parts for chairs, clocks; metal furniture in general)
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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Aug 27, 2012 9:19 pm UTC

jseah wrote:The plastic 3D printers are all well and good, but I don't see it taking off other than localized trinket manufacturing.

Me? I'll wait till it can print metal, moving parts and especially circuit boards before I get my own. Might be 10-20 years off though.
That's when it starts to get really useful. (Ring binders, paper clips, replacement parts for chairs, clocks; metal furniture in general)


Metal ones exist, but typically, they rely on sintering, which means some of the materials tend to be wasted. Also, they tend to be a touch pricier in general.

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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby Shivahn » Mon Aug 27, 2012 11:11 pm UTC

You can turn a wax or foam model into metal pretty easily - I'm not an expert in this area, but I wouldn't be surprised if it in general wouldn't be easier and cheaper for quite some time to make something out of wax and then cast it into metal, rather than just making it in metal.

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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby jseah » Mon Aug 27, 2012 11:33 pm UTC

I know about the sintering thing, but it's not that simple to make good quality metal products, often needing alot of post-processing and funky requirements (inert atmosphere or vacuum comes to mind) that the plastic objects don't have.

Hmm... I wonder how small scale chemistry is coming along. Last I heard, someone made a microfludic chamber for chemical reactions in glass and metal. If we can 3D print those, you might be able to reduce the number of required inputs as the fluid plastic or metal powder suspension can be premixed from basic reagents (pure metal powder and pre-plastic chemicals) in various proportions to make a variety of materials from simpler chemicals. As well as allow the machine to make its own spare parts.


Imagine a 3D printer with inputs: Dyes 1 to 10, plastic substrate solution 1 to 10, polymerization catalyst; mix as necessary to give a variety of output materials.
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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby some_dude » Tue Aug 28, 2012 12:13 am UTC

I guess some pretty severe restrictions on high quality metal 3D printers will be introduced, at least outside the US, since governments won't exactly be thrilled about anyone being able to print their own firearms.

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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby jseah » Tue Aug 28, 2012 12:21 am UTC

Can't 3D print gunpowder. And you need to build that into the bullet.

So restrictions on the powder (and chemicals to make it) yes, but to restrict high quality 3D metal printers kinda defeats the whole point of distributed manufacturing.
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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby EdgarJPublius » Tue Aug 28, 2012 1:19 am UTC

consumer level manufacturing of ammunition already exists and is widespread.
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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby bigglesworth » Tue Aug 28, 2012 1:25 am UTC

Shivahn wrote:You can turn a wax or foam model into metal pretty easily - I'm not an expert in this area, but I wouldn't be surprised if it in general wouldn't be easier and cheaper for quite some time to make something out of wax and then cast it into metal, rather than just making it in metal.
Casting in metal restricts the types of thing you can make though, since it has to slide out of a mold.

Which brings me onto my main point: 3D printing has already had a huge effect on the miniatures industry. Virtually all tabletop figure manufacturers (such as Games Workshop, as well as much smaller ones) make their models on computer and then print them in plastic in order to create a mold.
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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby yurell » Tue Aug 28, 2012 2:41 am UTC

I recall watching a documentary where they were using a 3D metal printer. A company that makes parts for aircraft were using it, because they could print it exactly as designed, without worrying about how it fit in the mould etc. and so could make it a lot lighter while retaining the same strength.
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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby jseah » Tue Aug 28, 2012 2:55 am UTC

EdgarJPublius wrote:consumer level manufacturing of ammunition already exists and is widespread.

*comes from country where firearms are banned* =S

What, the government lets people make explosives in their basement? I thought gunpowder was basically an explosive that if you got a large amount of is the same stuff you use to blow up rocks and houses.
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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby Sizik » Tue Aug 28, 2012 3:26 am UTC

jseah wrote:
EdgarJPublius wrote:consumer level manufacturing of ammunition already exists and is widespread.

*comes from country where firearms are banned* =S

What, the government lets people make explosives in their basement? I thought gunpowder was basically an explosive that if you got a large amount of is the same stuff you use to blow up rocks and houses.


Gunpowder's a low explosive, which means it doesn't detonate, just burns really fast. Mining and demolition typically use high explosives like TNT and dynamite.
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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby Sero » Tue Aug 28, 2012 3:37 am UTC

Legal, and doesn't require any special permits or such, according to wikipedia.

Like Sizik said, smokeless powder deflagrates, it doesn't detonate. It's not exactly the safest stuff in the world, but it's not really ideal for bomb making, it was just all there was for a really long time.
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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby jseah » Tue Aug 28, 2012 3:50 am UTC

Sero wrote:Legal, and doesn't require any special permits or such, according to wikipedia.

Like Sizik said, smokeless powder deflagrates, it doesn't detonate. It's not exactly the safest stuff in the world, but it's not really ideal for bomb making, it was just all there was for a really long time.

=( That's utterly crazy. I mean, sure, it's not "knock your house down" explosive, unless you were stupid enough to make a ton of it, but .... but... >.<

Please tell me this is the US. It IS the USA right?
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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby Shivahn » Tue Aug 28, 2012 4:16 am UTC

bigglesworth wrote:
Shivahn wrote:You can turn a wax or foam model into metal pretty easily - I'm not an expert in this area, but I wouldn't be surprised if it in general wouldn't be easier and cheaper for quite some time to make something out of wax and then cast it into metal, rather than just making it in metal.
Casting in metal restricts the types of thing you can make though, since it has to slide out of a mold.

Which brings me onto my main point: 3D printing has already had a huge effect on the miniatures industry. Virtually all tabletop figure manufacturers (such as Games Workshop, as well as much smaller ones) make their models on computer and then print them in plastic in order to create a mold.


I might be talking about something slightly different than you - what I'm thinking of destroys the mold. So I guess it's not particularly useful commercially, except for specific specialized items.

jseah wrote:
Sero wrote:Legal, and doesn't require any special permits or such, according to wikipedia.

Like Sizik said, smokeless powder deflagrates, it doesn't detonate. It's not exactly the safest stuff in the world, but it's not really ideal for bomb making, it was just all there was for a really long time.

=( That's utterly crazy. I mean, sure, it's not "knock your house down" explosive, unless you were stupid enough to make a ton of it, but .... but... >.<

Please tell me this is the US. It IS the USA right?


We let people have bleach and ammonia all the time. And gasoline. It's sort of weird to get hung up on powder because it conflagrates - it's safer than gas.

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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby EdgarJPublius » Tue Aug 28, 2012 4:36 am UTC

jseah wrote:
Sero wrote:Legal, and doesn't require any special permits or such, according to wikipedia.

Like Sizik said, smokeless powder deflagrates, it doesn't detonate. It's not exactly the safest stuff in the world, but it's not really ideal for bomb making, it was just all there was for a really long time.

=( That's utterly crazy. I mean, sure, it's not "knock your house down" explosive, unless you were stupid enough to make a ton of it, but .... but... >.<

Please tell me this is the US. It IS the USA right?


U.S., Canada, the U.K., etc. It seems a few countries require a minimal certification process, but in the U.K. you only require a Firearms Certificate to purchase primers, and all other handloading supplies can be freely purchased and used by anyone.
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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby Zamfir » Tue Aug 28, 2012 6:41 am UTC

Perhaps best not to turn this I to a gun control thread?

I just don't see it... a shot glass is as good an example as any... let's say you can print 60 shot glasses with your $42 cartridge. That's $0.70 each. I can buy good ones (thick walls, look like glass) for $0.50 each in bulk. If they're selling for $0.50 that means the cost of production is far less. So before we even consider anything else, your cost to produce is already more than the other guys selling price.

I think you're highlighting a large issue here: when you can print stuff at home, you don't have to compare to the production costs of mass manufacturing. You can compare to the cost (and convenience) of mass production plus the distribution. For many objects, the latter far outweighs the first. Transport, transloading, storage and all the associated logistics and risks. Several layers of resale, retail with its peculiarities. Unsold product. And the notorious last miles, whether by mail or with your own time and effort. All those steps are required to concentrate enough demand in one place to make cheap large scale production possible, they're not really separate costs.

Simple example: I could really use a particular leather-stitching needle. There's a large shop nearby that sells many kinds of little household things (the HEMA, for those from here), and another specialized sewing shop. Neither sell it, the nearest shop with such a needle is 20 km away.The internet would sell me one, but I'd have to wait a few days and pay several times in mail than their sales price( presumably already several times the raw production cost). Doable, but tomorrow I'd need some other little thing, and it adds up.

It would be really useful if I (or a shop nearby) could just turn out a range of different-sized needles, from hard plastic if necessary. I don't have to beat the Adam Smith Pin Factory's cost at all, convenience alone would do the trick. Of course, the HEMA sells lots of useful, cheap stuff that's way beyond a printer, we'll have to see how far the technology will stretch.

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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby bigglesworth » Tue Aug 28, 2012 11:26 am UTC

Shivahn wrote:I might be talking about something slightly different than you - what I'm thinking of destroys the mold. So I guess it's not particularly useful commercially, except for specific specialized items.
Oh, right. I understand now. Since the 3D printing market is always going to be for things which you need in small amounts, it does make a lot of sense.
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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby Azrael » Tue Aug 28, 2012 12:45 pm UTC

bigglesworth wrote:
Shivahn wrote:I might be talking about something slightly different than you - what I'm thinking of destroys the mold. So I guess it's not particularly useful commercially, except for specific specialized items.
Oh, right. I understand now. Since the 3D printing market is always going to be for things which you need in small amounts, it does make a lot of sense.

Not all things molded have to be pulled from a mold when done. That issues arises with injection molding, die or permanent mold castings. And it's really not a big issue, you just make molds with more than two pieces -- you have to be savvy enough to design accordingly and willing to pay the extra tooling costs.

However, both investment and sand casting destroy the mold after each casting, but Shivahn is specifically referring to investment casting. Both methods are incredibly common (each with strengths toward opposite ends of the size-spectrum) and entirely commercially viable.

You could print patterns for sand casting, but you'd run into issues with surface finish. The sand is going to stick in the 3D print texture, potentially causing great consternation pulling the sand mold off the pattern and a really terrible surface on the final part.

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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Aug 28, 2012 1:00 pm UTC

jseah wrote:I know about the sintering thing, but it's not that simple to make good quality metal products, often needing alot of post-processing and funky requirements (inert atmosphere or vacuum comes to mind) that the plastic objects don't have.


CNC seems to be a lot more common. It's...not quite the same, but for many purposes, can be considered close enough.

Hmm... I wonder how small scale chemistry is coming along. Last I heard, someone made a microfludic chamber for chemical reactions in glass and metal. If we can 3D print those, you might be able to reduce the number of required inputs as the fluid plastic or metal powder suspension can be premixed from basic reagents (pure metal powder and pre-plastic chemicals) in various proportions to make a variety of materials from simpler chemicals. As well as allow the machine to make its own spare parts.


There's been at least one 3d printer that used individual print heads with specific chemicals in each to create specific compounds in localized spots. That's...pretty cool, but I suspect there are still a lot of hurdles to cross to get to self building machines.

some_dude wrote:I guess some pretty severe restrictions on high quality metal 3D printers will be introduced, at least outside the US, since governments won't exactly be thrilled about anyone being able to print their own firearms.


If you can use a pipe, a rubber band, and a nail, you can improvise a firearm. In the real world, AK-47 manufacturing is a cottage industry in many countries. 3d printing makes many things possible, but the publicity given to printing firearms is perhaps overblown.

bigglesworth wrote:Which brings me onto my main point: 3D printing has already had a huge effect on the miniatures industry. Virtually all tabletop figure manufacturers (such as Games Workshop, as well as much smaller ones) make their models on computer and then print them in plastic in order to create a mold.


I can't disagree with that. The recent reaper quickstarter looks suspiciously like 3d printing was used in it's design. Admittedly, basically every model seems to now. Sculpting models by hand is remarkably painful if you want to create, say, identical models in very different poses.

jseah wrote:
Sero wrote:Legal, and doesn't require any special permits or such, according to wikipedia.

Like Sizik said, smokeless powder deflagrates, it doesn't detonate. It's not exactly the safest stuff in the world, but it's not really ideal for bomb making, it was just all there was for a really long time.

=( That's utterly crazy. I mean, sure, it's not "knock your house down" explosive, unless you were stupid enough to make a ton of it, but .... but... >.<

Please tell me this is the US. It IS the USA right?


USA absolutely allows it. It isn't a common cause of fires or anything. The amounts you use in ammunition manufacture are generally reasonably small. If you light it on fire, it's gonna burn...but the same can be said of almost anything in your house. I don't see a particular reason to worry about it. I also don't think 3d printing is something likely to help ammunition...it seems like the sort of item that 3d printing offers fairly little for.

Shivahn wrote:I might be talking about something slightly different than you - what I'm thinking of destroys the mold. So I guess it's not particularly useful commercially, except for specific specialized items.


A lost wax mold can make a lot of things your standard injection molder can't...and yeah, printing molds is something that's already been done. I suppose that's a third possible manufacturing path that might be made more commercially effective with 3d printers. This isn't really my specialty, I've only really done printing and straightforward injection molding...since I did that first, once I had a mold, I wanted to use it lots. Being able to easily replicate molds can change that equation a bit...hadn't considered that until now.

Zamfir wrote:I think you're highlighting a large issue here: when you can print stuff at home, you don't have to compare to the production costs of mass manufacturing. You can compare to the cost (and convenience) of mass production plus the distribution. For many objects, the latter far outweighs the first.


Absolutely true...I wonder if 3d printing will benefit from the green/localization movement? I mean, sure, the plastic still has to be shipped, but generally, that's in bulk, without much packaging relative to shipping final products. I could easily see people selling localized manufacturing as a plus.

Zamfir wrote:It would be really useful if I (or a shop nearby) could just turn out a range of different-sized needles, from hard plastic if necessary. I don't have to beat the Adam Smith Pin Factory's cost at all, convenience alone would do the trick. Of course, the HEMA sells lots of useful, cheap stuff that's way beyond a printer, we'll have to see how far the technology will stretch.


I've already done a bit of that. Shot-glass printing during a party, cookie cutter printing when someone wanted to make a cookies and was unhappy with the current selection. Avoiding the time/hassle/cost of driving somewhere is pretty fantastic.

On other benefits, I suspect that there's no toy that makes people as inclined to take up 3d modeling. I consider that a notable side benefit, as I've already got friends taking up 3d modeling so I can print 'em oddball stuff. I could see this being a pretty awesome teaching aid.

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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby Eomund » Tue Aug 28, 2012 2:14 pm UTC

Another way they will be useful is for repairing old machinery. Suppose you have a car from 1927 that needs a new part XYZ. Rather than trying to find another similar car to salvage parts from just print it out and you are good to go. For rare enough parts this is definitely cheaper.

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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby Zamfir » Tue Aug 28, 2012 3:49 pm UTC



On other benefits, I suspect that there's no toy that makes people as inclined to take up 3d modeling. I consider that a notable side benefit, as I've already got friends taking up 3d modeling so I can print 'em oddball stuff. I could see this being a pretty awesome teaching aid.

I suspect this will mostly appeal to hobbyists who already make stuff anyway. Woodwork, or clothing, or websites, or electronics, or scrapbooks, or photography. For such people a printer is a nice new power tool option, but probably more competitor for other hobbies than an extension to a broader base. 3d drawing tends to be time consuming enough that it's rarely worth your time unless you enjoy the creative process itself.

If there's to more impact than that, I think it's more in the plug-n-play corner. Where people pick a picture and print it.

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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Aug 28, 2012 4:01 pm UTC

Eomund wrote:Another way they will be useful is for repairing old machinery. Suppose you have a car from 1927 that needs a new part XYZ. Rather than trying to find another similar car to salvage parts from just print it out and you are good to go. For rare enough parts this is definitely cheaper.


I hadn't considered cars, but I am doing this for board games. Lots of them rely on you not losing tiny plastic pieces. I've got more than a few in the closet that could use some replacement bits.

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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby cphite » Tue Aug 28, 2012 6:17 pm UTC

jseah wrote:
Sero wrote:Legal, and doesn't require any special permits or such, according to wikipedia.

Like Sizik said, smokeless powder deflagrates, it doesn't detonate. It's not exactly the safest stuff in the world, but it's not really ideal for bomb making, it was just all there was for a really long time.

=( That's utterly crazy. I mean, sure, it's not "knock your house down" explosive, unless you were stupid enough to make a ton of it, but .... but... >.<

Please tell me this is the US. It IS the USA right?


In your country, are you allowed to drive a car powered by gasoline? Are you allowed to have a water heater in your home? Natural gas heating? Propane tanks?

Because each of those things is more dangerous than smokeless powder.

Honestly, there are a great many things in the average home that are far more dangerous than smokeless powder.

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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby Eomund » Wed Aug 29, 2012 1:27 am UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:
Eomund wrote:Another way they will be useful is for repairing old machinery. Suppose you have a car from 1927 that needs a new part XYZ. Rather than trying to find another similar car to salvage parts from just print it out and you are good to go. For rare enough parts this is definitely cheaper.


I hadn't considered cars, but I am doing this for board games. Lots of them rely on you not losing tiny plastic pieces. I've got more than a few in the closet that could use some replacement bits.


I think the 3d printer works really well for anything there is some demand for but not a lot. Since the industrial revolution there have been huge advantages to mass production. Therefore, generally, it is cheaper per unit when you produce more. There is no point in building a factory to produce an item only 100 people in the world want. However, with a 3D printer it costs the same per unit whether you want 5 or 5000. It won't make common items cheaper, but extremely rare items should become a lot cheaper.

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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby liveboy21 » Wed Aug 29, 2012 2:50 am UTC

I don't know much about 3d printing and I don't know what level of detail 3d printing can have but I think that there are some areas where its use could be interesting.

For example, how much would it cost to 'print' a designer US$200 plastic chair? or a US$900 chair? Presumably most of that price would be from the actual design rather than actual production and before this, the members of the public would not have been able to make their own plastic chairs easily.

How about bowls or plates? There are cheap bowls and there are expensive bowls but if you can print bowls based on a known design, does the price difference between the two matter anymore?

Perhaps in terms of production there may be interesting ways of reducing costs for expensive items. However, for the consumer, I think that 3d printing may have a similar effect to how piracy has affected computer software (though perhaps not at the same scale). For a software pirate, there is no real difference between a cheap software and an expensive software. It takes the same amount of time to torrent and download. This is why so many children are somehow able to use photoshop on facebook pictures and memes. In the same way, a person with a 3d printer won't see a difference between a cheap plastic toy and an expensive plastic sculpture. It would presumably take the same effort and cost to make either of them and thus consumer 3d printing could potentially bring art to people who previously could not afford to contemplate art.

A consumer 3d printer would allow people to pirate reality, and it sounds very exciting.

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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby Trasvi » Wed Aug 29, 2012 8:43 am UTC

liveboy21 wrote:I don't know much about 3d printing and I don't know what level of detail 3d printing can have but I think that there are some areas where its use could be interesting.
For example, how much would it cost to 'print' a designer US$200 plastic chair? or a US$900 chair? Presumably most of that price would be from the actual design rather than actual production and before this, the members of the public would not have been able to make their own plastic chairs easily.
How about bowls or plates? There are cheap bowls and there are expensive bowls but if you can print bowls based on a known design, does the price difference between the two matter anymore?
Perhaps in terms of production there may be interesting ways of reducing costs for expensive items. However, for the consumer, I think that 3d printing may have a similar effect to how piracy has affected computer software (though perhaps not at the same scale). For a software pirate, there is no real difference between a cheap software and an expensive software. It takes the same amount of time to torrent and download. This is why so many children are somehow able to use photoshop on facebook pictures and memes. In the same way, a person with a 3d printer won't see a difference between a cheap plastic toy and an expensive plastic sculpture. It would presumably take the same effort and cost to make either of them and thus consumer 3d printing could potentially bring art to people who previously could not afford to contemplate art.
A consumer 3d printer would allow people to pirate reality, and it sounds very exciting.


I believe Pirate Bay already hosts 3D models, awaiting just this thing.
However, there are a few issues with this.
1) 3D printers are quite small. Most printers I've seen would be able to print something as big as a shoe. To print a designer chair, you need a production area within the printer at least as big as the chair, and I don't think people will be rushing out to buy fridge-sized printers. I don't think there is any technology limiting the size of printers; but there is a lack of desire for them.
2) Printing takes time. A lot of it, and increasing as step size decreases. It would take you many many hours (a day?) to print a chair.
3) The value of many items is based upon their brand. One thing that comes to mind immediately is designer sunglasses: you pay for the brand, not the materials. Fakes are produced all the time, but they're not desirable because people know they're fakes. At the price points where you're paying for the brand name or the design, its also probably likely that you're not enormously price sensitive. At worst, designers of expensive products can take steps to make their products from materials which are difficult to print. A plastic chair is easy to print, a wooden chair not so much.

Personally, I don't think 3D printers are going to become home consumer products without a seriously enormous change in how we purchase goods. They might make their way into the homes of people who already produce things (hobbyists and craftspeople) but not to Joe Consumer, for one reason: They don't solve a problem.
Normal printers were a pretty big hit, because they solved a problem that has been part of society for millennia: producing copies of written work. The triangle of home computers, WYSIWYG editors and home printers allowed people do do all of the assignments, reports, bills, etc quickly and painlessly.
3D printers don't solve a problem for most people. One commonly cited use is 'spare parts': but in todays society, we rarely fix things that break (we just buy new ones) and getting the parts isn't the difficult thing about fixing stuff.
I also think that stocking the materials is going to be a seriously limiting factor in getting 3D printing into the home. There is no universal material to print with (unlike blank white paper) because every different thing in your life is made from different materials. You can't print a hammer and a shot glass and a shoe from the same materials. Combine this with increased difficulty in colouring (you'll require much larger amounts of dye and in more colours than for paper printing) and you're requiring people to retain significant amounts of materials to print anything - which they probably won't have, and at that point its easier just to go down to the shops and buy whatever you need.

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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby HungryHobo » Wed Aug 29, 2012 9:15 am UTC

I think expecting people to make a large portion of their stuff with 3D printers is like expecting people to print their own books with 2D printers.

which people do. but rarely.

but there's still a printer in most homes and they get used a lot.

I can't count the number of times I've been doing something and thought "if only I had something *this* shape" to steady a shelf ,a tool shaped like *this*, something to fit in somewhere or similar.
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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby AvatarIII » Wed Aug 29, 2012 9:28 am UTC

HungryHobo wrote:I think expecting people to make a large portion of their stuff with 3D printers is like expecting people to print their own books with 2D printers.

which people do. but rarely.

but there's still a printer in most homes and they get used a lot.

I can't count the number of times I've been doing something and thought "if only I had something *this* shape" to steady a shelf ,a tool shaped like *this*, something to fit in somewhere or similar.


the thing is, people don't print their own books because it's so much cheaper to buy a book that has been mass produced, if someone wants to read something that has not been mass printed, they are forced to read it off a screen or print it, the same goes for 3D printing, it's silly to print things that you can already get cheap because of mass production, but if you just want one or a few of something that is not in high enough demand for mass production, 3D printing makes sense.

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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby Technical Ben » Wed Aug 29, 2012 9:35 am UTC

It's all physics and stamp collecting.
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Re: The implications of consumer 3d printing

Postby idobox » Wed Aug 29, 2012 2:12 pm UTC

I don't know about you, but in my home, the printer arrived as a tool for homework, and is still used mostly for that kind of application. Sure, there is plane ticket or map from time to time, but we stopped using it almost totally when I got out of high school, and could use the University printing facility.
Find an application, and it will flow. I think kids and young adults are an especially good target, because they buy toys, and might be interested in custom/collectible ones. Custom Lego bricks, complete toys, figurines...
A 3D printer that could be plugged on a game console and print figurines as rewards for achievements would find its market. Imagine being able to print those figurines you earned in Smash Bros, or a figurine of that boss you killed, etc...
In France, we also have a lot of "magazines" that come with a collectible figurine, or a part of a model. If you're ready to spend hundreds of euros a year to have a collection of cute cat figurines, or all the parts of a WWII battleship model, you're a good target audience for 3d printers.
And how many of you have ever thought something along the lines of "if only there was something like Warhammer, but in a steam punk universe"? I know I have, and I've never even ever played Warhammer. I suppose the people buying that kind of things would be very interested and would create open source universes. Companies would see their products pirated, and would probably have to move to a different business model, with subscriptions and downloadable figurines, further fueling the machine.
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