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Tuesday, February 07, 2012


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Ener Hax

3D printing is very cool and i have seen an entire sim printed as a conference exhibit BUT . . . it's pretty novel, even with a sub-$1000 printer

still, i'd love to have a little pocket Ener Hax on my desk! =)

Ehrman Digfoot

Over-hyped. Amazon should provide 3D-Print services, and Autodesk should partner with these services to provide software export to Amazon 3D-print. Consumer dedicated 3D print devices are, however, completely unnecessary no matter how much the cost goes down.

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

I'm so old-school that I still build plastic models. For that troubled hobby, these printers could be a godsend.

But detail-up sets for 1/72 scale P-51D Mustangs do not a fortune make. Now if you could produce, in industrial-grade metals, currently rare parts for 1/1 scale classic cars, you'd be talking some real fortunes.


snowglobes. it's all about the snowglobes.

Tateru Nino

Hype is - by definition untrue - and not to be confused with buzz (which is what most people are thinking of when they use the term). Therefore, any and all hype would be "overhype" (as the term is used).

If a product or service "lives up to the hype" then it wasn't really hype to begin with.

sirhc desantis

Speak of a related devil over on the beeb http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-16907104

But not a household use but i'd like one =^^=

Melissa Yeuxdoux

I have hopes for it. Check out http://www.popsci.com/scitech/article/2009-06/print-out-your-next-building for an example in addition to the one sirhc cites.

Dave Durant

If you're a fan of Seifert Surface, you might want to check out George Hart (google knows him, just ask it) as he's got sorta similar work made in RL with 3D printers and laser cutters and such..

As somebody with two home 3D printers (an old Makerbot Cupcake and a new (& frickin' awesome) Ultimaker), I think it is sorta hypish and don't forsee a printer in every home any time soon. More likely, we'll see more fablabs popping up where you can send them a model and they'll run you off a copy. Shapeways.com is already doing something like this - definitely check them out if you haven't before.

One big issue is the time it takes to print anything of decent quality and size. http://www.thingiverse.com/derivative:17601 is a decent example - cool (yet creepy) model but it took over 3 days to print! And that's with one of the fastest machines on the market and printing the object hollow. If he'd set it to be solid, it would probably have taken a couple weeks to print..

That said, they're pretty useful machines for hobbiests.. I saw a guy just in the last few days that had designed and printed a complete quadcopter (except circuits and motors &c). If he wants to, say, add a camera mount, he can add that to the model and reprint it. Voila.

To actually get these to the point that 2D printers are today, there needs to be some game-changing advancement in how the machines work. There have been many, many great advancements over the last year or so but those are more iterative changes - until something comes along that lets us print at least 10x as fast, it's going to mainly stay a hobby market. A really cool (if you're nerdy) hobby market but still a hobby market..

Dave Durant

...and, if it wasn't clear, the comments above are really about home 3D printing.

If you google around, you can find fairly amazing news on 3D printing in the medical field. Just today saw this: http://idealab.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/02/3d-printed-jawbone-successfully-implanted-into-83-year-old-woman.php . Also recently seen a 3D printed ear, printed with living cells. Replacement organs, bones, skin. It's all coming and really is NOT hype..

Lots of examples around on where this tech is being used.. It's really quite a useful thing.

Hamlet Au

Yeah, that's a good counter-example. But then I read the link, and get this:

"[T]he university couldn’t have done it without Belgium 3D-printing company LayerWise, which fabricated the custom jawbone implant out of titanium powder, heated and fused together layer-by-layer with a laser from the company’s 3D printer."

Definitely amazing and useful, but can it scale? In the next decade, maybe to a few dozen hospitals and such. But hard to see stuff like this becoming mass market. (Which is a slightly different point than what I made above, I know.)

Inuko Arashi

I've seen things like this, seriously 3D printing is amazing in an art form, it takes the skill as it is NOT to make something as borked as a ruthed avatar on a cloudy day and render it, let alone PRINT IT :)


Though greatly biased by Diamond Age(Stephenson), I'd still say the Matter Compiler won't be hitting the shelves until we master nano tech. =)


Umm, have any of you noticed that 3D printing is being used for medical purposes?? Check this out http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19716728

This example is a powerful argument for 3D printing; the ability to manufacture, highly complex one-off items of (potentially) great value. How would you like to try to live w/out a jaw?


Nevermind. example posted already. Apologies.

shockwave yareach

There are many applications for 3D printing. And as the cost comes down, craftsmen will use them to create far more ornate and complex devices than they are able to make today with simple lathes and bandsaws.

Consider a propeller. A simple device, yet making one requires a milling machine. But make a plastic one on a cheap printer and cast a mold from that, and you can make your own to whatever spec you decide. And without needing a 200,000$ milling machine.

Arcadia Codesmith

For most apps, it's not currently a cost-effective alternative to mass production. It's great for highly personalized and specialized fabrication.

But if the technology continues to advance, it could become an instant-gratification machine that changes the face of manufacturing and retail.

Over-hyped? Like 3D virtual reality? Maybe. But I don't believe 3D virtual reality was overhyped. I think people are just impatient. It can take a century or more for some technologies to be refined enough for mass consumption, or for societal modes to shift in a favorable direction.

Metacam Oh

I hope to print out a new pair of lungs one day with one of them so lets hope this gets better!!!

Pussycat Catnap


Over-hyped for some things, but will revolutionize manufacturing for others.

It -will- flip the dial again and kill many outsourced manufacturing jobs, bringing it home. But to smaller scale operations human-wise.

But it won't do magic tricks or clean the house.

Think or robots. Hype in the 1950s/1960s reminds us of the maid-bot in Jetsons, and various 'sexbot' notions still persist (and the mechanical side of this exists for Japanese).


But on the other hand... robotics killed many US manufacturing jobs in their first pass. Cutting much of the labor needed. This refilled by simply allowing greater production of more trained workers. And then was outsourced...

And back to 3D printing... that will just insource it again. You merely need to ship the raw materials - the plastic powder. A company needing a part can produce it right there on sight. From a new wizzbang for your car's dohicky, to the cup they pour your latte into (could me contained in a biodegradable made on sight and designed to decay in days.)

- Some of the dreams will be realized, an some are just the kind of visionary thinking that is always needed for an envelope to get pushed.

If you only look across the street, you won't even make it to the midway divider before getting capped. But if you look uptown, you're sure to at -least- cross the street. Worked for the Jeffersons, worked for me, and its always worked for technological progress as well. :)

So even the hype has a point. But that doesn't mean something big isn't really on the way. It is, it just won't be exactly as expected.

Pussycat Catnap

ps: Anyone ever read Neuromance?

Well cyberspace happened, but yes, Gibson overhyped what it would be (we'll just ignore that cyberspace was already there when he wrote his book, but being a non-techy he'd never even used a computer before, so didn't know). :)

Ask the inventor of the cellphone how that happened... he'll tell you with a straight face that he was trying to build the Star Trek communicator (see the PBS Special hosted by William Shatner: "How William Shatner Changed the World" - a somewhat funny look at the real changes brought about because of the fantasy of what could be).

Hype is a vital part of the human inventive process, and we do ourselves a great disservice anytime we undervalue it.

Douglas Story

Coincidentally (and dentally!) I ran across this story yesterday on Slate.com about an artificial jawbone that was made with a 3-d printer:


Pussycat Catnap

The medical angle gets me thinking.

The result of a near fatal assault twenty years ago - my bad tooth finally had to come out last year (I'd opted for a cheaper option for years, even after leaving the streets).

If 3D printing were widescale, I would not have had to wait a few weeks for the dentist to ship off a cast and get a tooth delivered; he could had put one together while I waited in the office for, most likely, the thing to cool and harden for an hour and then be tossed in there.

Consider benefits it might have to emergency care.

It would likely drive costs down to where the hood-rat I used to be could have had access to it at the time.

But more importantly, likely also avoided the complications that near got me a second time when a messy surgery nearly drowned me in my own blood (3D printing might have enabled a better way to cast up bones and prevent a clot - making something disposable and fit to need on the spot).


@Pussycat -

they already do this. my wife had a tooth replaced a couple years ago - it was scanned/printed/ready in about an hour.

shockwave yareach

I was spearheading a drive to simulate construction of aerospace vehicles in SL, to minimize the time it takes to document assembly instructions. Instead, we opted to make 3D models in scale and do the same documentation with scaled parts and in a simple room rather than a full hanger.

It costs 50x what the SL approach would have cost. But fidelity is much greater, and we don't have to worry about what other contract LL would break next. All I have to worry about breaking is the models themselves.

Pussycat Catnap

"they already do this. my wife had a tooth replaced a couple years ago - it was scanned/printed/ready in about an hour."

Curious. Mine was about this time last year, and I waited a week for it to arrive...

@shockwave: SL is more of a social video game, not the ideal place to do 'CAD' work.

But if you need CAD work on the cheap, Blender is free. I wouldn't recommend it either... but it'd still be superior to SL.

The 'prim' by itself just isn't refined enough for the needs.


The melted plastic type of 3D printer will not be a world-changer on it's own, but a workshop with a number of different computer-controlled part making machines would be. Between them they could produce all or most of the parts for a complete device, including themselves. Such part making machines already exist, they are just too expensive for home use, or even small commercial shops.

Once upon a time mainframe computers were too expensive for anyone but a big company. We know what happened since then.

Lauren Weyland

Sadly this article is like politics. Instead of middle ground of understanding it has taken a stance without understanding the business. Smartphones are only a small part of communication so are they a failure? Dental, Architectural models, prosthetic etc are real today in 3D. However Xcite parts will probably not happen. I'd be happy with 100 billion of a 60 trillion global economy. How big is success to you Hamlet?

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