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

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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  • So far away (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anrego ( 830717 ) * on Saturday March 29, 2014 @02:47PM (#46610695)

    I have to imagine that the climb to that level of 3D printing (assuming we ever get there) will be so gradual that society will have plenty of time to adjust.

  • Re:So far away (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> on Saturday March 29, 2014 @03:00PM (#46610763) Homepage

    I doubt it will ever get there... not everyone cooks or even microwaves their own food after all.

    And that's without pondering whether we'll ever get a 3D printer that can print all those things that require so many different characteristics (I.E. so many different materials) - and still be cheap enough to be affordable to the average consumer. The average 3D printing fanboy seems to seriously lack a grasp of just how far we are from practical large scale 3d printing.

  • by areusche ( 1297613 ) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @03:01PM (#46610765)
    Unless 3D printers can start molding metals, rubber, paint, and various other base materials then this is a non-issue. The article reads like 3D printers are going to become Star Trek replicators and somehow end the concept of branding. They're useful for fabricating small unique plastic parts, not making a stove, Benz, or Macbook Pro.
  • by jklovanc ( 1603149 ) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @03:04PM (#46610779)

    Show me a 3D printer that can print the following and maybe that can print a tire;
    1. Different vulcanized rubbers for tread abd side wall. Currently there are no 3D printers that can print vulcanized rubber.
    2. High tensile strength steel wire for the tire bead. Metal printing can be done but tempering is difficult especially when it is next to rubber.
    3. Long Nylon fibers for the strengthening plies.
    A tire is actually a very complex object requiring many different materials most of which can not be 3D printed.

  • Not gonna happen (Score:2, Insightful)

    by hweimer ( 709734 ) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @03:05PM (#46610783) Homepage

    We live in an economy of mass production because it is way, way cheaper per unit to produce stuff in very large quantities. Even if 3D printing should become the way of manufucturing in the future, we'll still go the big-box retailer for our shoes and get a 3D-printed one from the shelf (or order them online) rather than printing them at home.

  • by temcat ( 873475 ) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @03:11PM (#46610799)

    Don't worry, the government will get involved much earlier. Since the shoes that you've 3D printed can be argued to be more valuable than the raw material, they'll just tax the difference.

  • by caseih ( 160668 ) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @03:16PM (#46610831)

    Seriously before we go off in a discussion of how 3d printing will change everything, it'd be helpful to first understand how modern things are actually made, currently. When people talk about printing car tires, I just laugh. They don't have a clue what's inside a tired. I highly recommend watching "how it's made." then we can talk about what 3d printing is good for. I think 3d printing will revolutionize things but maybe not in the way most people think.

    Creating moulds, tooling, prototypes, one offs, that's where 3d printing is hitting its stride. Or maybe structural plastic manufacturing. But complicated items like tires always will be complicated involving many materials and many construction techniques and steps.

  • Re:So far away (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jeremiah Cornelius ( 137 ) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @03:23PM (#46610863) Homepage Journal

    When 3D printing becomes fast, cheap and ubiquitous, the makers of Lego, and the makers of crappy plastic keychains will have to find another business.

  • by rbrander ( 73222 ) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @03:43PM (#46610969) Homepage

    IN THEORY, factory-manufactured homes would be this huge step forward over built-on-the-spot. Buckminster Fuller devoted endless hours to the subject, and imagined deployment by zepplin or helicopter, dropping off the whole Dymaxion House. Robert Heinlein wrote sharply about what a car would cost if GM sent a team of automobile assemblers to build it in your driveway.

    IN REALITY, the cheapness was a hidden sales-killer. Only those with the tightest budgets live in manufactured homes, with their constraints on shape, their reputation for short service life, and they are disparaged as "trailer trash".

    Printed alternatives for factory-made products will have some compromises. I'm not aware of an ability to print leather, so the shoes, for instance, will probably be *visibly* printed shoes that will be known to cost less...and come with a stigma because they will "look cheap". ANY kind of clothing that can be seen to be made a cheaper way will always carry a stigma. Jeans in the early 70s went quickly from being chic because they were cheap and proletarian and showed anti-consumerist, non-bourgeois "hippie" values to...designer jeans that cost as much as the most conspicuous-consumption choices.

    "Conspicuous consumption" is not regarded as a moral sin until it hits truly comical levels (see, Saddam's palaces or much of the Hamptons) within its own culture. Dr. Robert Frank of Cornell has devoted a lot of study to the subject, is one of the best even-handed reads about income inequality; showing that you have a little money, or just really take pride in appearance, is not a bourgeois evil, it's a constant in every society through history. Adam Smith wrote about there being some decent level of clothing below which even a tramp would not be seen on the streets of Edinburgh...he wrote in the 1700s when that level was better than half the population could have afforded 200 years earlier, because fabric production was already much-mechanized. Whatever is the cheapest way to make anything is in any culture is always going to "look poor" and carry stigma.

    Printing cups and bowls? Could do, but notice that people actually keep two sets of china? You might print the kid's tableware, but you won't put it out for guests. Might was well put out placemats with the sign "we're poor".

    People spend a lot of money on: homes, cars, appliances/electronics, furniture - as capital assets. And clothing and other items much on display for status as well as use, as consumable assets. Notice that none of these things are going to be popular as home-printed products. I'll happily buy a home printer, there's loads of things they will do: a box of just the right size to fit a storage space, a replacement part. I just walked around the house and came up with the TV trays, the TV stand, my CD cases, the picture frames, bookends, and a whole lot of containers. All acceptable if plain and utilitarian. Everything else, I'd want it to look like it wasn't produced the cheapest way possible.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 29, 2014 @03:47PM (#46611009)

    This is what people that think 3D printing will take over the world fail to realize.


    You cannot 3D print out high tensile strength steel wire, because that strength comes from the orientation of the atom and molecules. That orientation is achieved by drawing it through a die.

    Same the polymers that make up the Nylon wire.

    Also the strength in a tire also comes from the directions rubber sheets are applied in.

  • Re:Amazing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by itsdapead ( 734413 ) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @03:54PM (#46611067)

    So if I understand this correctly, thanks to the 3D printer we will soon have access to affordable items made of plastic.

    Actually, make that less affordable items made of plastic, since buying and maintaining a domestic-size 3D printer and keeping it fed with raw materials is almost certainly going to cost more per item then buying mass-produced stuff. That's without factoring in the time needed to load up the printer, trim and assemble the output etc (So, how long is it going to take your home 3D printer to grind out a soap dish, shower nozzle, curtain rail, 20 curtain rings... and how much hand-finishing will they need?) When 3D printing technology evolves beyond making simple plastic widgets very slowly, you'll bet that factories will be installing industrial-strength ones that can turn out items at 1000 times the rate and at 1/1000 of the cost of your home printer...

  • Re:So far away (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drkim ( 1559875 ) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @04:09PM (#46611163)

    When 3D printing becomes fast, cheap and ubiquitous, the makers of Lego, and the makers of crappy plastic keychains will have to find another business.

    3D printing won't start out competing with uniform, mass-produced, molded plastics.

    Where 3D printing will make it's commercial inroads will be in custom ergonomic products; custom shoes that fit your scanned feet, armrests for you chair, gloves, glasses frames that fit your face perfectly, headrest for your car, coffee cups and glasses molded to your hand, pads for your headphones and ear buds, pens and computer mice that fit your hand perfectly, etc.

  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @05:10PM (#46611501) Journal
    You click on the 'submit' button at the top of the page.
  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @05:55PM (#46611679)

    There are a lot of things you could easily do right now that you don't, and not because of laziness. Like power generation. You could generate your own power, right now. No new tech is needed, everything is on the mass market. Generac will happily sell you a generator sufficient to power your entire house. You can even get them so that they feed off of the natural gas line, and thus you don't need a separate fuel contract. What's more, this isn't rare. Generac sells these all the time as backup generators to people who live in areas prone to power failure. People drop 4-5 figures to have everything set up so that when line power dies, they stay powered. On the bigger side of things, data centers buy huge ones to make sure their computers never go dark.

    Ok well these places already have generators. They are installed, ready, and capable of providing power. So, they go off the grid right, generate their own energy? No, basically never. Well why not? Why spend the money for the backup and not just use it all the time? Because it is cheaper to buy line power. Those generators, impressive as they may look, cannot compete with the behemoths that produce line power. The massive plants with multi-stage turbines just do a much more efficient, and thus cheaper, job of generating electricity.

    This holds true for just about everything. You find that the cost to produce something at home, using equipment of that size, is just not near as cheap as producing it in large quantities using big industrial equipment.

    So perhaps we will see the day when 3D printers truly can print anything (I'm somewhat doubtful, it would really take a technology advancement so much as to be a completely different thing) but it is likely to then be a luxury, not the way everything is done. You would be able to have your 3D printer/replicator/UC/whatever print you something and have it right away, but the cost in doing so in terms of materials, energy, and so on would result in a product more expensive than if you ordered the same thing from Amazon. So those that have money might use it for convenience, or to get things more to custom spec, but mass production is still likely to be the thing.

If graphics hackers are so smart, why can't they get the bugs out of fresh paint?