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The 3D Economy — What Happens When Everyone Prints Their Own Shoes? 400

Posted by Soulskill
from the anarchy-and-chaos-and-sore-feet dept.
cold fjord writes: "According to Reason, 'Last May, Cody Wilson produced an ingeniously brief but nuanced manifesto about individual liberty in the age of the ever-encroaching techno-state-a single shot fired by a plastic pistol fabricated on a leased 3D printer. While Wilson dubbed his gun The Liberator, his interests and concerns are broader than merely protecting the Second Amendment. ... Wilson is ultimately aiming for the 'transcendence of the state.' And yet because of the nature of his invention, many observers reacted to his message as reductively as can be: 'OMG, guns!'... But if armies of Davids really want to transcend the state, there are even stronger weapons at their disposal: toothbrush holders, wall vases, bottle openers, shower caddies, and tape dispensers. ... In many ways, it's even harder to imagine a city of, say, 50,000 without big-box retailers than it is to imagine it without a daily newspaper. So perhaps 3D printing won't alter our old habits that substantially. We'll demand locally made kitchen mops, but we'll still get them at Target. We'll acquire a taste for craft automobile tires, but we'll obtain them from some third party that specializes in their production. Commercial transactions will still occur. But if history is any guide, more and more of us will soon be engaging in all sorts of other behaviors too. Making our own goods. Sharing, swapping, and engaging in peer-to-peer commerce. Appropriating the ideas and designs of others and applying them to our own ends.'"
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The 3D Economy — What Happens When Everyone Prints Their Own Shoes?

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  • Like photo printers (Score:2, Interesting)

    by crow (16139) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @03:37PM (#46610925) Homepage Journal

    Remember how photo printers put photo shops out of business? Not exactly. If you want prints, it's usually cheaper to go to the local drug store or box store and print them out there than it is to buy the special paper and ink yourself. It will likely be the same with 3-D printing. If you don't do it all the time (and most people won't), it will be cheaper to print your designs at a local shop. They'll have the large high-quality industrial printer that you can't afford, along with a wider choice of materials than you could stock.

    What it will do is cut into the profit margins for mass-produced items. They will have to compete with the price of printing out your own design, not just what other companies are charging. That will eat into the profits of retailers.

  • by bkmoore (1910118) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @03:52PM (#46611043)

    ....Or maybe structural plastic manufacturing....

    Structural plastic developer here, three years of professional experience in this area. The problem from a purely structural standpoint is that 3d printing cannot print fibre-reinforced plastics. There has been some preliminary work on this at the Frauenhofer Institut in Stuttgart, Germany. [] Their solution is running a nylon thread through the printer nozzle. For this, they have a spool of thread and a mechanism similar to a sewing machine on the printer head. This creates a part with a continuous thread that is oriented in the raster pattern traveled by the printer head. But the part does not have the characteristics of an injection-molded fibre-reinforced part, which would have many small fibers with many various orientations. I visited the site personally and saw their research first hand. They still have some technological problems to work out. For example, I don't think they understand shrinkage fully and would have a hard time complying with engineering tolerances. But for a quick prototype, more than adequate. Prototypes can be made to fit. ;-)

    I won't go into material cost. Any industrial 3D printing outfit, that's halfway serious about what they do, would use raw granulate and not buy cartridges. But the main short coming of 3D printing as opposed to injection molding in a production environment is the cycle time. A complex part with tight tolerances (TG 3 after DIN 16742) of around 100-200 Gramms in an fibre-reinforced PA6 or PA12 can be injection molded in about two to three minutes, depending on injection temperature and cooling time in the mold, etc. The actual injection time is around one second for a reference. Otherwise material hardens during the injection process. The time required to print the same part would be many hours or even a day or more, depending on the printer used. I was at a 3D outfit and showed them a simple part of less than 10 Gramms. It would have taken in their estimation 30 minutes to print. Not good for mass production.

    Where 3D printing is actually useful is generating rapid 3D prototypes or for doing custom parts in non-reinforced plastics. But custom parts, if they do wind up in the hands of a customer, aren't of good enough quality for my company to sell without hand-finishing to at least simulate the surface finish and texture of an injection-molded part. Acetone can be used here to make a smooth surface finish. Costs are high, but less than the cost of making a mold for a one-of-a-kind part. Alternatively custom parts can be made the old-fashioned way, that is by hand.

    Usually the marketing people want the 3D parts more than the developers. Sometimes we use printed parts in development prototypes for parts where we haven't gotten around to making a prototype mold for. But these parts have limits, they usually cost a lot and if I need a high two digit or a three-digit-quantity, it's usually much cheaper to make a prototype mold. But sometimes it's difficult to convince management of that, which is probably a common problem. But after a couple of projects, the management's starting to come around to my point of view on this.

  • Not necessarily (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rsilvergun (571051) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @03:55PM (#46611073)
    the problem is instant manufacturing. It won't be a 3D printer in your home, it'll be one at the store. That'll be doable in my life time. Heck, some officemaxs already have 3D printers, and there's a little commune of hobbyists doing 3D printing too.

    It means the end of an entire industry of logistics, shipping, etc. That combined with automation (most factories employee less than 100 people unless they're paying subsistence wages) is going to cause huge social upheaval.
  • Re:So far away (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ColdWetDog (752185) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @04:09PM (#46611161) Homepage

    Somehow, I don't think I'm going to ever trust my neighbor's foray into printing car tires. If he gets so organized and skilled that he can make a tire that competes with a Chinese manufacturer then he probably is going to sell them at a store or perhaps on line. No different from the way I get things now.

    Even in the moderate term, 3D printing will be evolutionary, not revolutionary. It will fit certain applications, it will not be a good fit for many others. I doubt it will create any fundamental change in the economy. We're NOT talking about Star Trek replicators here.

  • Re:Amazing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mtippett (110279) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @04:55PM (#46611423) Homepage

    Well for commodity items - I get your point. However, my personal experience is owning a house that has a really unusual shelf pegs. Unusual in that they are simply not available. I ended up modelling them and using shapeways to print them. What I made is up at [].

    The cost, was about $2 per peg - which is about the same cost as low run retail products at home depot.

    3D printers will make it affordable for extremely low run prints. For spare parts and out-of-production items it removes a lot of obsolescence.

I tell them to turn to the study of mathematics, for it is only there that they might escape the lusts of the flesh. -- Thomas Mann, "The Magic Mountain"