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Tuesday, March 11, 2014


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Maybe 3D printers are at the mid-1970s PC-hobbyist stage. Someone will bring out the Apple II and IBM PC for 3D printing, too.

Here's an analogy, since I see this technology as a godsend to those who build scale models.

Among my other forms of geekiness, I build WWII armor and WWII and some modern aircraft. After several years of humming and hawing, I bought an airbrush. It changed my builds by taking them to a new level of detail. In fact, it is my "preternatural attention to detail" as a builder that made me take the leap to air-brushing.

It took a while for the price point for a really good airbrush to match my need. I see that for a 3D printer. I'd consider one if 1) I could get plans for kit parts and 2) the price were under $500 to print in plastic.


The weird state of things now is that the entry level 3d printers require greater expertise than the professional models.

I can't really imagine anything that I'd want to 3d print today, with what 3d printers can currently actually make. If we're talking some theoretical multi-materials model that can do finishing too, well, then, sure. But like anything that's "five years out" there's really no way to know if it'll ever happen, or happen in a way that's recognizable today.

(My favorite example of the "five years out" phenomenon is now the video phone, which was repeatedly predicted as being "just around the corner" in breathless tech pieces literally for decades. We have it now– me and my friends and family regularly use skype for exactly this, but it looks nothing like what the video phone's of yore were predicted to. And the advent of actual modern video chat is built on an enormous amount of infrastructure that no one was predicting as a prerequisite.)

Adeon Writer

There's a few custom avatars in SL I'd like printed, but there are companies to do that for me. I don't need my own printer.

The same can be applied to other service machines, I'm sure pizza shops have developed great strides in hands-off pizza making machines, but I just don't need one in my home. I will pay to use theirs.

Chez Nabob

So, I looked at the Slate article. Sounds like the author, while "moderately tech-savvy," knows little if anything about 3D programs, modeling, etc. Unfortunately, at this point you DO need to have some level of comfort with knowing your way around a 3D modeling app, but eventually this technology will become MUCH MORE commonplace and will require MUCH LESS effort or knowledge from the user to get something printed.

Working in 3D apps as a modeler and animator, I love being able to model something on my computer and then print a real, tangible piece on my 3D printer. The potential for this technology is limitless, and I do believe it will become more ubiquitous and revolutionize people's lives at some point. But right now it's in its infancy.

Iggy's comment above comparing today's 3D printers to early 1970s-era hobby PCs is pretty accurate I think, but look how far PCs have come and what they've allowed us to accomplish by using them.

I read another a comment posted on the Slate article that I also thought described the current state and potential future of 3D printing technology pretty well. I've pasted it below:

"I have a favorite story from science class, of varying validity: When Ben Franklin was observing the first hot air balloon ascension, he was asked "of what use is this balloon," to which he replied "of what use is a newborn baby?" We are now seeing the newborn baby of 3D printing. It's not too useful right now, it's not cost effective yet, and it's mostly misunderstood. But given a few generations, we'll see a printer do amazing things..."

Of course, many thought SL would become the 3D internet of the future too. If I were a betting man, I'd lay money on 3D printers over SL-as-3D internet every day of the week and twice on Sunday (even without the benefit of hindsight). There are just too many possibilities for 3D printing technology.

Arcadia Codesmith

We need a killer app to catalyze a mass-market quantum leap. At the moment the applications are a bit esoteric. There's no incentive to build the super-fluffy interface for morons yet.

Get a small 3D printer below the $100 price point, and show it to Mattel and other toy makers. Betcha they come up with a 3D interface any reasonably bright six-year-old can use.

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