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The Explosive Growth of 3D Printing 213

MojoKid writes "If you've ever attended a World Maker Faire, the first thing that strikes you is how organic the whole scene is. Inventors, creators, and engineers from all walks of life have their gadgets, science projects, and creations on display for all to see. Some of the creations you see on display range from downright amazing to completely bizarre. One of the big attractions, a technology area that has experienced explosive growth, is the land of 3D Printing. MakerBot took the open source RepRap 3D replicator project mainstream back in 2009 with the release of the Cup Cake CNC machine, then came the Thing-o-Matic and then a little bot called Replicator. With each iteration, improvements in process and technology are bringing better, more capable 3D printers to market, from MakerBot's new Replicator 2, to new players in the field like Solidoodle, Up!3D, Ultimaker, and Tinkerines. To watch a 3D printer in action is like witnessing art, science and engineering all working together in glorious unison."
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The Explosive Growth of 3D Printing

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  • Guns (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tsa ( 15680 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @10:19AM (#41512945) Homepage

    Pity that there is now a bunch of lunatics trying to make printable guns. The world will not be a better place when everyone and their dog can download and print their own guns.

    • TSA (Score:5, Funny)

      by Aqualung812 ( 959532 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @10:26AM (#41513033)

      The irony of your low-uid username and this comment is awesome.

    • Re:Guns (Score:4, Interesting)

      by stevegee58 ( 1179505 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @10:30AM (#41513081) Journal
      It's OK. Currently the only part of an AR-15 that's considered a "firearm" is the lower receiver and this part can be made entirely of plastic, hence the 3D printer interest. You can buy the rest of the parts such as triggers, barrels, etc completely off the books with no controls.

      If the 3D printing of lower receivers become a real "problem" to the ATF they'll just change the definition of which part of a gun is the "firearm". For instance, you can't 3D print a barrel since it has to be made of steel.
    • Re:Guns (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @10:40AM (#41513195) Journal

      Unless the technology improves substantially, 3d printed guns are going to succeed largely in stimulating the market for guns that you can operate with multiple missing fingers...

    • by cvtan ( 752695 )
      I got my initials CVS long before there was a CVS pharmacy... I still got emails from CVS pharmacy customers asking about their film that was sent for developing.
    • by DrXym ( 126579 )

      Pity that there is now a bunch of lunatics trying to make printable guns. The world will not be a better place when everyone and their dog can download and print their own guns.

      More likely they're making plastic stocks and receiver housing and the other peripheral stuff which holds the important bits together. The barrel, receiver, firing pin, magazine, springs, screws and other metal parts of a gun, plus the ammunition would have to be manufactured some other way for the time being. Of course some enterprising fellow who has watched In the Line of Fire might get the bright idea to make the whole gun out of plastic. Maybe it would work but its as likely to blow their hand off, or

    • Re:Guns (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Bob-taro ( 996889 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @11:11AM (#41513519)

      Pity that there is now a bunch of lunatics trying to make printable guns. The world will not be a better place when everyone and their dog can download and print their own guns.

      Are you implying you'd have to be a lunatic to want to make a gun?

    • I modded +1 Insightful and it turned out 2, Flamebait, which is totally insane with regard to this post. So I have to post to undo.

      The possibility of easily making guns, even from soap (as is done in prisons), is very, very frightening. And don't tell me that it's better to have kids attempt to steal a bubble gum with a plastic gun than actually using a real one!

      It won't be long until we read that a kid was suspended from school for life because a plastic printed gun was found in his locker.

    • The more guns the merrier.

    • Ease-of-access to guns is just one aspect of technology that we'll just have to get used to. Destroying is always easier than creating, whether it be diy - firearms, diy - bioweapons, or diy - (insert your technology that can be used destructively here)
      • Ease-of-access to guns is just one aspect of technology that we'll just have to get used to.

        More likely it will be used as an excuse to ban 3D printing when it starts becoming good enough for complex machines. After all, it might cut into the profits of established manufacturers, and we can't have that.

    • The world will not be a better place when everyone and their dog can download and print their own guns.

      The availability of steel pipe at the hardware store must make you very nervous.


      And you frist posted it, so 75% of the discussion will be about this bullshit.

    • People have made weapons out of blocks of stone, so we shouldn't build stone or concrete houses...?

      Fast 3D parts you can handle, feel, assemble and use, if at least done gently with many of the printer polymers makes analyzing what you can think of for design a very quick process, whether for play or production prototyping.

      Emphasis on guns, which is only partially possible is a joke. You still need barrels and other very highly stressed parts that can't be done by RP plastics. True there are RP titanium a

    • Yes, I definitely consider handguns made entirely of Lego brick material a credible threat. Just like nail clippers, 4oz bottles of shampoo and shoes. Also, congratulations on being selected for additional security screening, please wait by the TSA agent on your left.
  • by Yaa 101 ( 664725 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @10:23AM (#41513005) Journal

    How long will it take before all the legalese crap breaks loose?

    Sooner or later powerful people will want to appropriate this while shielding and litigate the rest of us.

    • by WillAdams ( 45638 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @10:33AM (#41513123) Homepage

      Already started.

      Thingiverse has received DMCA takedown notices for a couple of models, some legitimate (Games Workshop probably has a pretty clear-cut case for copyright infringement), others resolved (over a Penrose Triangle based on a design from the 1930s) and at least one other which I recall, but can't find a link for where a parent printed up a replacement part for a broken toy but took it down at the request of the toy manufacturer (if memory serves).

      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @10:46AM (#41513251) Journal

        For the moment, costs and material limitations are probably keeping things on that front (mostly) in check. There are a few areas(like the Games Workshop figurines), where the price is quite high based largely on copyright and there is also a demand for numerous replicas(though, incidentally, I'm told that the real 'pirates' tend to use conventional mould-making and casting techniques, since those are reasonably efficient for small batches and far cheaper than a 3d printer that can capture fine detail properly).

        There just aren't too many things that are made of dubious-quality plastic but are expensive enough to clone at current prices. Nothing like music where, even on dialup, the price of a CD worth went from $15 to ~$0...

      • This is what we really need to be looking out for on the copyright front. The law is currently being made to deal with stuff like books, music, movies, and software. But long term it's also going to apply to real, physical objects. The issue first cropped up with copyrights for weaving design patterns. Soon we're going to have 3D printers. Eventually we'll probably have Star Trek-like molecular replicators. It means someone is going to "own" the shapes you might print on your 3D printer.

  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <> on Monday October 01, 2012 @10:30AM (#41513083) Journal

    The Explosive Growth of 3D Printing

    I thought we agreed not to print printable machines that print more printable machines. It's Second Life all over again ... IRL!

  • ...Maker Faire was a goldmine. Every major vendor was there, and they all had samples of the classic objects everybody uses for demos, so it was very easy to compare the quality of the output. (That is, presuming that the ones that stood out didn't just print 500 identical objects and bring the one good one.)

    • by Jeng ( 926980 )

      I'm glad to hear that you got to see the quality of the output of many different 3D printers, so up for doing a quick review of what was good and what was bad?

      • by ebh ( 116526 ) <edhorch@gm a i l .com> on Monday October 01, 2012 @11:28AM (#41513675) Journal

        Since all I looked at were completed objects, I can't say anything about how fast they were produced, how reliable or easy to calibrate the printers are, etc. What I mostly looked for were irregularities. In a 3D printed object, the layers are very visible. If you think of a cylinder, you expect the sides to be as smooth as possible, i.e., no protrusions or indentations. The layers should be completely horizontal, no glitches or waviness that make you think the printhead jiggled or anything. If you think of a sphere, the topmost layers should look like perfect concentric circles, and the top shouldn't look like it's about to cave in.

        It was insanely crowded in the 3D Printer Pavilion, so once I decided that a vendor's objects were not the best, I moved on. But there were two noteworthy units: Sorry to say, the new Makerbot 2 was a disappointment, given that it's one of the most expensive units at $2800. The objects they had on display were some of the worst. The surprise winner, and the one I'm recommending to a nonprofit children's museum I'm working with that wants to buy one, was the Tinkerines Ditto. It produced the best objects, and at $900 in kit form or $1400 assembled, it was amazing bang for the buck.

        Tinkerines is new to the scene, so they don't yet have a dual-nozzle head, nor do they yet support ABS plastic (the necessary heated base is still being developed), only PLA. But for our application, it's perfect. The people were really nice too, despite the crowds and the cacophony in the tent.

        (Disclaimer: I have no connection with any vendor except as a customer or with Maker Faire except as an attendee.)

        • Did you happen to see the Formlabs Form 1 printer? They were at Maker Faire too. They're running a Kickstarter [] right now, and from the photos and video on there the parts that machine produces look far better than most anything else I've seen. I watched the video of the Tinkerines Ditto on IndieGoGo [] and the parts didn't look anywhere near as finely-detailed.

          I'm quite interested in learning more about the Form 1 and it would be great if someone had a first-hand experience from maker Faire (I'm in Seattle

  • Anyone who adds an e to town, old, or fair deserves a kick to the nuts, especially if those words are used in combination or with the word ye.
    • I assume this event is for True Geeks which would normally be dressed in chain mail and carry swords a la Dungeons and Dragons.
      The extra E seems appropriate.
      • by Russ1642 ( 1087959 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @10:54AM (#41513331)
        One of my favourite Dave Barry quotes: "We should enact an 'e' tax. Government agents would roam the country looking for stores whose names contained any word that ended in an unnecessary 'e,' such as 'shoppe' or 'olde,' and the owners of these stores would be taxed at a flat rate of $50,000 per year per 'e.' We should also consider an additional $50,000 'ye' tax, so that the owner of a store called 'Ye Olde Shoppe' would have to fork over $150,000 a year. In extreme cases, such as 'Ye Olde Barne Shoppe,' the owner would simply be taken outside and shot."
    • Viva la difference. Ol'Bill of the Shaky Speare would also beg to differ with you.
    • Re:Extra E (Score:5, Interesting)

      by danbert8 ( 1024253 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @10:50AM (#41513289)

      Or as my French speaking girlfriend suggested: Faire is the French word for "To make" so it could be a play on words?

    • by Olix ( 812847 )
      I read 'World Maker Faire' and I think, "wow, that sounds shitty." 'Faire' is obviously terrible, but 'Maker' isn't a great word either. Can't they think of something that sounds less naff?
  • by freeze128 ( 544774 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @10:33AM (#41513121)
    The 3D printer of today is a lot like the VCR. It has elements of robotics, complex control circuitry, and some even have an onboard LCD interface. But with all that technological brilliance, it's WHAT IT DOES that matters the most.
    • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @10:52AM (#41513311)

      The 3D printer of today is a lot like the VCR.

      In other words pr0n is going to drive the market. Home printing of customized "marital aids" and "massage machines" are going to drive the market. Whichever 3-d printer is first to market with a silicone print head wins. Also lots of size bragging... no one's going to admit a reprap huxley that can only print 5 inch long things (well, more on the diagonal) is "big enough".

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @10:53AM (#41513317) Journal

    So, does anybody care to speculate about the mid/long term distribution/ownership of these things?

    I keep seeing the breathless predictions of 'desktop manufacturing, one in every household!'; but I also see that (among the people, friends, family, neighbors needing computer assistance, etc. who I have cause to know about) ownership of inkjets is actually falling, despite the fact that those are nearly free; because it's easier to just upload the pictures to some service that owns a $20k+ printer but will sell you a tiny slice of it for under 10 cents a print. Laser printers are holding the line, so far, among people who push paper.

    As a technology, 3d printing is obviously here to stay; but the value proposition of actually owning one, rather than renting a tiny slice of somebody's much classier one over the internet, seem about as mainstream as the economics of owning a high quality large format photo printer or a machine shop. Definitely something that certain professions would lead you to do, and definitely something that a hobbyist would want access to; but not necessarily something that you would seriously consider owning...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by WillAdams ( 45638 )

      I've thought that obvious places for this would be:

      - local car dealer --- in the shop where they could print up small trim parts rather than having to maintain inventory / having them shipped
      - local hardware store (w/ integrated 3D scanner) --- scan the thing-a-ma-bob which they customer brings in, be directed to a particular aisle / shelf if in stock, if not, print up a quote to have a replacement printed / milled.

      The problem is the run time on these devices is rather lengthy, making it har

    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      Certain people will buy one. It will not be like laser printers and inkjet printers, in that 3D printer will be cheap enough to own one. It will be like high end laserjet or wide format printers in that the price will be within the range of hobbyist who want one. It will be like color laserjet and inkjet printers in that people will realize that the expense is in the consumables, not the printer itself. It will not be as bad as a chap color laserjet, where refilling the consumables is more expensive tha
    • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @11:21AM (#41513615)

      An insightful observation, but I'd add that you need to factor in the reprap factor. If it goes makerbot, meaning no self replication, then you've got it, but if it goes reprap, meaning self replication, then things could get weird. If my laser printer could print another laser printer...

      I'd say the best reprap analogy is livestock farming. Yes it reproduces itself to a first approximation for free, but its going to take up time and some specialized supplies, lots of specialized knowledge (although in the olden days every peasant knew everything about chickens, or thought they did, anyway), and space, and smell (molten PLA is not as stinky as molten ABS, both pale in comparison to the smell of a laser cutter exhaust or chicken droppings, but...). Admittedly for most people, chicken is what comes in little wrapped trays at the supermarket, or more likely the fast food drive thru...

      My metal lathe can make another bigger lathe, but that's pretty rare in the hobby because its a lot of work, worse than printing reprap parts...

    • You're right, it isn't so much ownership of a printer that (normal) people want, it's having customized stuff. Until the price of the filament or resin comes down, 3D printers and their output will continue to be relegated to the expensive toy category. $20 per cubic inch is a bit more than most people are willing to pay for small plastic trinkets. If the final cost of production comes within, say, a factor of 2 of the cost of bulk injection molded plastic items, then the age of mass-customization will b
      • by gninnor ( 792931 )

        When there is an inline recycling unit I'll be interested. Something breaks, junk in, replacement part out. Bonus points when metal and glass can be used (I can dream).

    • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @11:36AM (#41513757)

      Are full of crap. While such a thing might be possible in the future, current 3D printers just make plastic models. Now that's nice and all, and there's plenty of uses for it (industrial prototyping is a big one) that is far from household manufacturing. They can't work with metal, never mind electronics. You don't just go and print out a cell phone or something.

      The only market that might possibly be threatened is the 3D miniatures market. Though I don't know how good they do at colour (all the ones I've encountered are monochromatic) so you might still need to paint things. Aside from that, there is little in the commercial space they threaten. They are extremely cool toys, but little more than that.

      In terms of home manufacturing if they gain the ability to work with metal, particularly multiple metals, which would require a major change in how they operate, then they could produce more useful items. If they made metal and plastic parts on a fairly fine scale, they could manufacture many every day items. However unless they could either work on the micro/nano scales that electronics work on, or in some other way make use of it (like be loaded with various kinds of chips to use) their market would still be really limited.

      They are nifty for making examples out of a somewhat weak plastic (it isn't super fragile but it isn't high impact) but a universal constructor they are not.

      • They can't work with metal, never mind electronics.

        Not so my friend... []

        You'll people are already making parts to guns and master keys that can unlock anything from baggage padlocks to police handcuffs. Yes, these are probably laboratory grade 3D printers, but it won't be long before the public can get their hands on something similar.

        • As I said about my idiot thing. No people are not makiing anything. They are making very few things.

          The only gun part I've seen made is the lower reciever to an AR-15. This is the part that takes the least stress, and is quite cheap (they cost about $50 for a basic stamped lower, $150ish for a nice mahcined one). This is not the business part of the gun. Go ahead and print a barrel and chamber, see how it does. Just be warned: It has to withstand about 63,000 PSI so good luck there. You try it, I'd make sur

      • by Jeng ( 926980 )

        In terms of home manufacturing if they gain the ability to work with metal,

        Rather surprised no one has taken a mig welder and used that to do 3D printing.

        • That's a reasonable idea if you can live with how coarse the results might be. minimum line width would be the weld seam width, which depends on the power, feed speed, and the wire diameter; and, control of position would depend on how consistently the arc stays on the line. You would also need a compatible metal base to start with -- You have to weld to something substantial enough to strike an arc on and maintain the arc, without blow-through, until you build up a couple of layers.
          • by Jeng ( 926980 )

            A bolt could be the "base" that the piece is welded to, but yes the final piece would need to be sanded down to make it smooth.

      • by Lennie ( 16154 )

        How about Lego bricks ? I know Lego has patents, but what if I print Lego bricks for my own use and don't sell them ?

      • Hey there.
        You're wrong (but this is not a bad thing - you're about to learn something cool!) - 3D printing extends to metals (powders that are laser fused) - from alumide to titanium - or combinding 3D printing in wax with the Lost Wax molding techniques, brass, bronze, gold and silver.

        Check it out! []

    • I can see this in a few steps. You'll start with the larger manufacturers expanding the use of 3D printing and then the shift to smaller and mid-sized manufacturers. Then you may see things like auto-body shops and parts suppliers begin to move into the realm. At least for the next ten, twenty years, it may be more of a Kinkos model where you'll have small, franchised 3D print shops that print up components and parts for you. We may eventually get to home printing, but in order for this to be successful
    • The real benefit of a printer is probably the short "shipping" time. If you realize that you want a plastic part or a photo print tomorrow at the latest it's too late to order now, but if you have a printer you can get it today.

    • by sootman ( 158191 )

      I think it'll take off. With prints, they're all pretty much the same, and if you don't have a printer, you can just keep it digitally and say "I'll print it later" or send it to someone else who REALLY wants to print it now. And you never need to, say, print a small square of a thing to paste on top of a bit that got damaged. I, however, am counting the days until I can use a 3D printer to fix the countless little things in my house that break or that I want to improve, like a part of a clip for a phone, o

    • Check out [] [] []
      and there are many other brands of 2D cutters used by the crafting community.

      The women who are really into scrapbooking, card making, and such will jump at the opportunity to make their own napkin holders, salt & pepper shakers, and other doodads.

      I expect to see []Etsy filled with 3D printed items in a few years.

      - Jasen.

  • But they're still above my "fun toy" expense cap. If the MakiBox ever goes into production, I'll probably buy one just for fun but $300 is as much as I'd want to spend. It's cool to have the potential to just print off any little parts you need for a project but the reality is that it takes a lot of time to design objects. It would take hundreds of hours of practice to get competent at it and thousands to get good.

  • by Applekid ( 993327 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @11:24AM (#41513647)

    MakerBot took the open source RepRap 3D replicator project mainstream back in 2009 with the release of the Cup Cake CNC machine, then came the Thing-o-Matic and then a little bot called Replicator. With each iteration, improvements in process and technology are bringing better, more capable 3D printers to market, from MakerBot's new Replicator 2.

    The Replicator 2 which is now closed source. That's one way to thank all the hard work of those who toiled and released open source hardware.

  • I have bad eyes. And the only thing that works is a gas permeable semi hard contact lens. Not the flexi use-and-throw kind. Nor the extended wear kind. I spend five minutes every morning diligently rubbing cleaning solution on the lens, wash it many times before changing my status from legal-blind to perfect 20/20 visionary :-)

    I just wish I could print a brand new ready to wear set of contacts every morning!

  • Blender doesn't work on my computer, but I could never figure it out anyway. (Maybe it's related to the viewport bug?)
    While the prices of printers have plummeted, capable software remains high cost. Most people I know what it for engineering replacement parts, which include screw threads, but working screw threads are almost impossible to get right unless you're also making the other side of the fastener as well. While free-form modeling programs are common, Anyone know of a good parametric program?

    I have

    • Blender is not CAD anyway. I know of only commercial products that are really CAD capable. Its just a lot of work that the OS community has never really got stuck into. Perhaps because if you have a CNC machine, the software cost is not really a big issue.
    • Check out OpenScad []. I found it pretty nice, at least for a programmer. There are thread models and other libraries available here [].
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 01, 2012 @12:20PM (#41514311)

    Remember the Altair 8800. []

    The Altair was a pretty primitive and useless computer by today's standards but it was really the first personal computer. Looking at it, you wouldn't have predicted all the ways personal computers have changed our lives.

    The 3d printers we have now are primitive and fairly useless. Almost nobody 'needs' one. What about thirty years from now? I'm guessing than many people's lives will be transformed. Many tradespeople will see their industries upended. Old style sign painters had to face competition from unskilled bozos with personal computers and a vinyl cutters. Skills that took a lifetime to learn no longer provided a competitive advantage. The 3d printing revolution promises to be similarly wrenching.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @12:49PM (#41514795) Homepage

    I have yet to see a low-end 3D printer that works consistently. TechShop has an "Up" and several RepRaps, but it seems to take several tries to make anything, and nobody gets consistently good parts. The machines that work by laying down a strand of ABS from a heated nozzle (which is all the low-end machines) have trouble getting a consistent bond to the previous layer. The temperature at the bonding point is too critical and not well enough controlled.

    Somebody should try using some high power laser diodes to heat up the point where the ABS strands are fused. Those aren't expensive up to 2 watts or so. You only need a few watts, focused very tightly on the weld area. Welding is about applying heat to both sides of the joint in the weld area. The heated nozzle approach applies the heat on only one side, the new string approaching the weld. The material being joined to is cold. Of course the bond quality is poor.

    The UV-bonded powder machines work fine, but cost about $50K. Laser sintering machines seem to produce good results. The E-beam deposition approach reportedly works very well, but is even more expensive. But ABS through a heated nozzle, not so much.

  • Right now all the cheap ones are only capable of making plastic parts. I'd like to see a low cost metal powder additive machine. I don't care if it's aluminum or titanium (cheap or expensive) base metal.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I know of a machine shop at a university which has several 3D printers -- why would you ever need a mill?

    These are commercial Stratasys units, over $60k each -- and yet their output is inaccurate (-maybe- good to 20 thou) and incredibly brittle and weak.

    People have ALWAYS been able to make things. This lowers the barrier of knowing how -- but the only people that have interesting things to make are those that know how to make them anyways.

    I have found the self-congratulatory nature of the whole Maker movem

To do two things at once is to do neither. -- Publilius Syrus