Random musing about 3d Printing

I was asked to comment on this article:



The ubiquitous home 3d printer is a really good idea. For ten+ years from now.

Being a techno-geek, I’ll take mine today.  But, my wife isn’t likely to going to learn to operate it. Ever.

In this article, the scheme of savings they produce is roughly equivalent to coupon shopping.  How many people bother with coupons, even though they could save “thousands” of dollars per year?

Yes, the specific items they produce DO save them money, but what quantity of such items would you purchase in the first place?  When is the last time you purchased shower curtain rings?

It’s harsh to say, but 3d printing is currently limited to decorative or rarely replaced items.  The 20 objects they printed would have saved them $300 (on the low end).  But, how many months, years, would the printer have sat in the closet before they needed to buy a SECOND one of any of those items?

Also.. they used a Reprap, not a Makerbot.   Take a good hard look at a Reprap: http://reprap.org/wiki/Main_Page

My wife ain’t putting that next to the kitchen microwave!

The other thing about the Reprap.. take a second good hard look.. that thing has 500 nuts and bolts! It requires rather constant Maintenance and Tweaking to keep it running.  Your average home (non-geek) user is not going to tolerate that level of maintenance.   What you need is a statistic on how many operational hours you get out of a Reprap before you must re-tighten every bolt on it to keep it working right.

Another small factor not discussed here is the noise of one of these devices.  After 25 hours of printing.. my wife would be tossing ME out to the curb.  (I’ve also heard that the melted plastic smells)

There is also the question of needing a computer nearby.   The Reprap might function okay once you upload a file to it, but you have to have a connected computer at some point to download the files. That means keeping a computer up and running with the proper software.  (Translation; 3d printing is not a “commodity” yet)  The Reprap doesn’t have ‘net connectivity to be able to randomly select from a library of items, nor does it have the computing power to supply customization to those items.  There again, your average home user isn’t going to have the skills to supply customizations.

It would be really cool to have a 3d printer at home.. I could really use a new (custom) set of shoe insoles right now.  I think my current insoles are 3 years old… Am I going to buy a printer, or drive ˝ mile to Target?

On the positive side, the concept of “coupon” level savings is rather intriguing.  The people who peddle coupons make quite a bit of money doing it.  There might be a market here……

For the short term, if Staples or Office Depot would offer on-demand printing.. I think they could make some good money for 5-8 years until the machines begin to move into the home.  Or I can just upload my model to Shapeways <GRIN>