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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.

      • 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.

        • Is there particular reason why you would choose to group Lego with crappy plastic keychains?

        • 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.

          • Will you print a whole custom shoe, or just a custom insert for the shoe? The insert gives you a great fit, while using more traditional methods for creating the actual shoe results in a better constructed, longer-lasting product, for less.

            • by drkim ( 1559875 )

              Will you print a whole custom shoe, or just a custom insert for the shoe? The insert gives you a great fit, while using more traditional methods for creating the actual shoe results in a better constructed, longer-lasting product, for less.

              They are already printing shoes on multi-material machines. I've held them in my hand. They would certainly fit better than an off-the-rack shoe, since they are printed to your specific foot. (Sadly, not MY foot, which is why I couldn't try them on!)

              They use a harder, stiffer material for the sole/heel area, and a flexible media for the insole and sides. The sides were printed with vent holes, as well.

              The top and bottom materials are fused together, so it looked like they would hold together forever. I can'

            • I can already print my own shoe by printing patterns on a 2D printer, cutting them out, and sewing them together. Few people do it. Even the poor rarely do it. The custom insert will be cheaper, so that is what most people will have. Even if the production costs are the same, that will be true.

          • Seems more likely that the machine that can print the custom products would still be in the same factories, but the shoe store would be different and involve scanners and such things. Maybe some shoe stores would have the printer right there in the store. But putting the machine in the home, along with all the input materials, waste handling, etc., would be much more expensive, and take up a lot of space. Plus, it would mostly be sitting idle. Only the rich could do afford a manufacturing machine that is g

            • by Skal Tura ( 595728 ) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @07:01PM (#46612021) Homepage

              not just a toy.

              it allowed us to create products affordably we couldn't otherwise make, in production, for sale. We are a typical small business with constrained budgets for creating products and small customer base.
              It affords us to create products where the production costs are rather low, thus a comfortable margin product to make the product viable in the first place, with big commercial competitors, albeit the big commercial competitors have inferior products, with way higher price tag.

              Further, 3d printing allowed us to rapidly prototype our product, turnaround for a new prototype can be less than one day, and we've done that many times over, and in early design stages multiple prototypes a day. Hiring a shop to machine parts for us the lead time for new prototype would be couple of weeks, and the expense would be orders of magnitude more.

              • The issue right now isn't what we'll be able to print. It's what we won't be able to print. Under current IP laws, the designs you'd want to print on a 3D printer will probably fall under copyright, which means they'll be locked up under license for 100+ years. We'll have the ability to vastly improve lives everywhere by printing stuff cheaply; but we won't have the right to do it until it's 100+ years old (and likely obsolete).

                This is why the current debate over copyrights is so important. Making co
                • That is completely wrong, objects that have a function are specifically excluded from copyright law. You would have to apply for and be granted a design patent, which have a shorter life than a normal utility patent.
        • 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.

          No. When 3D printing becomes fast, cheap and ubiquitous, the rent seekers will lobby Congress to make it illegal.

        • by pepty ( 1976012 )
          When 3D printing finally becomes fast, cheap, and ubiquitous, most things made from printed plastic will be considered cheap, ubiquitous, and ugly, and gauche. If it can be made of wood or metal, people will want it to be made of wood or metal. Cue 3D printing of steel, oak, and maple ...
        • The naivety of manufacturing that 3D printing fans display is staggering. Many posters have already pointed out the reasons why even something as simple and plasticy as lego blocks won't be home printed. Bit to go to the title of TFS - shoes? People want shoes made from leather, They don't want some home made version of Crocs.

      • > 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

        You have missed the concept of distributed peer-to-peer commerce alluded to in the summary. You will not have a single machine that can make everything, but access to many different machines across a network, one of which might be yours. Shapeways ( has the centralized version of this already. They have a building full of a bunch of

        • 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.

          • Actually, we are talking about Star Trek Replicators, Version 0.8.

            100-200 years of development should result in several improvements.

        • You have missed the concept of distributed peer-to-peer commerce alluded to in the summary. You will not have a single machine that can make everything, but access to many different machines across a network, one of which might be yours..

          So, I'm supposed to trust that somewhere in the network will be the machine that will print the one thing I (and everyone else) only occasionally need a new one of? It had better be a dang big network. (And the guy who owns that one machine had better have maintained it a

      • 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.

    • You have to be nuts or in an impossible hurry to print casual keepsake photographs with your inkjet printer on photopaper when you can get infinitely nicer one for pennies from Winkflash or Apple or whatever.

      I'm sure the same will be true of 3D printing, hobbyists and pros will print their own. The rest of us will go down to Kinkos and pick up our completed part.

      • The rest of us will go down to Kinkos and pick up our completed part.

        So true! The stores will be saved by the short-term thinking of the human species. Of course everybody could wait 1 day for the local mail, but they won't! Just like mail-order film processing when I was a kid. I could spend 2 weeks allowance and get my film developed TODAY or I could spend 1 weeks allowance and get them processed by mail... in 2 weeks. I'd have been more likely to save the money, then get them locally, (waiting the same amount of time!) than to just spend the money up front and wait.


    • 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.
  • eye glasses (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 29, 2014 @02:52PM (#46610713)

    3d printer frames and lenses will break the global eyeglass monopoly

    • Re:eye glasses (Score:5, Informative)

      by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @03:37PM (#46610931) Homepage

      It's amazing that one company has been able to obtain 80% market share in eyeglass frames in the US. It's not like they're hard to make. Frames start at $0.60 on Alibaba.

      For really cheap glasses, you make them round. Ordinary lenses have three parameters - spherical radius, cylindrical radius, and cylinder axis. For round lenses, only the first two matter; the third is determined when the lens goes into the frame. So there's a briefcase-sized kit used in India with a set of standard round lenses moulded from polycabonate, standard round frames, an adjustable temporary frame for the eye exam, an eye chart, and a little gadget to notch the lenses to keep them from rotating once the desired cylinder axis is determined.

  • by damn_registrars ( 1103043 ) <> on Saturday March 29, 2014 @02:55PM (#46610731) Homepage Journal
    That is an interesting idea for sure. I'm not sure if we could ever really get to 3D printing that could print something that durable; arguably a tire goes through even more physical wear than the guns that have been printed so far.

    It does leave me to wonder though if we could print a tire straight on to the rim. Then the whole matter of mounting is no longer an issue - although balancing likely still would be. Could a service truck with a 3D printer print a new tire for a motorist in comparable time - and with better safety - than what it takes to put a space saver spare on from the trunk?
    • 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.

      • 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.

      • This assumes that a tire has to be made out of vulcanized rubber, etc. Part of the evolution of 3D printing will be the development of new materials and printing processes that are suitable for products to be printed.
        • Part of the evolution of 3D printing will be the development of new materials and printing processes that are suitable for products to be printed

          The clarion cry of all 3D printing fan boys. Are you a clairvoyant and know what technology will be created? You have no idea what "will" happen. Those "new materials and printing processes" are called vapourware as it does not exist yet and even basic research has not been started yet. 3D printers are not Startrek replicators. 3D printers taking over from conventional manufacturing have about as much chance of happening as the paperless office.

      • That is an excellent point and it was one thing that I was wondering when writing that comment. I would not have really expected that 3D printed tires would be possible had they not specifically mentioned the idea in the summary.
    • by Anrego ( 830717 ) *

      Modern tires are actually ridiculously complex. Different types of rubber and other materials are fused using different temperatures and pressures, not to mention various steel bands and strengthening fibres.

      Assuming you could do all that, there'd be a massive safety concern as well.

      I think things like tires will be one of the last things we see printed.

  • Amazing (Score:5, Funny)

    by rasmusbr ( 2186518 ) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @02:56PM (#46610739)

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

    Wow, it's difficult to even imagine what the world will be like!

    • 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: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.

    • Well AOPA just had an article about 3D printing plastic interior pieces for old airplanes that cost many hundreds of dollars if you can even find one. The printed stuff is usually around $100 or so. This is a HUGE deal for old cars and planes that need one-off trim and interior pieces.
  • by rossdee ( 243626 ) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @02:56PM (#46610743)

    I gave up Inkjet printers years ago because of the cost, I can't see how 3d printers will have cheaper cartridges...

    • by Enry ( 630 )

      You're not limited to one vendor of material. Some printers support different kinds of material, and I seem to remember seeing something (on slashdot?) with a way of making your own filament from chopped up plastic bottles.

    • I think that's a remarkably prescient analogy. Ink jets are generally not cost effective for home use. For instance, you can go down to Walgreens and get prints from their (better) equipment for almost half the price compared to printing at home. I imagine that home 3D printers would be limited and expensive, and that places like Walmart would have a print station analogous to the photo center at Walgreens.

      • by LoRdTAW ( 99712 )

        Precisely. My bet is 3D printing will wind up becoming another photo booth at your local mega mart. Go online, upload or pick your design and then place the order. Then either have it delivered or take a trip to the mega mart to pick it up. That or online companies will offer design and printing services without brick and mortar.

        Only a hand full of people will actually have 3D printers in their homes or shops.

      • Unless you don't print much, you'll quickly pay more for gas than you would for printing stuff at home...

    • by dccase ( 56453 )

      Now you can print your own Inkjet cartridges at home!

      • by drkim ( 1559875 )

        Now you can print your own Inkjet cartridges at home!

        I would - but my gawddamn 3D printer cartridge dried up.

  • 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.
    • They're also good for making large ceramic or sintered titanium parts, like mixing chambers for rocket engines. And yes, there are printers that print in rubber as well. The plastic-building hobbyist printers are just that - for hobbyists. Spend $10-100k and you can get something truly impressive. And the prices are falling fast, by something like tenfold in the last decade IIRC, with no sign of stopping.

      "Star Trek" replicators will probably require more sophisticated systems capable of assembling dissi

    • by drkim ( 1559875 ) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @04:31PM (#46611285)

      Unless 3D printers can start molding metals, rubber, paint, and various other base materials then this is a non-issue.

      They are already doing this - just not at the 'home' level...

      Alumide, Steel, Sterling Silver, Brass, Full Color Sandstone, Ceramics... []

  • Not gonna happen (Score:2, Insightful)

    by hweimer ( 709734 )

    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 Anonymous Coward

    How do you get to be a submitter to Slashdot? This article and summary have no actual content.

    "If history is any guide" we will continue to do what we have done up to now. Honestly what a wasted article about nothing.

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 3D printing won't replace traditional manufacturing, any more than home laser printers replaced commercial printing. It enables NEW BEHAVIORS that are different, and any replacement is indirect. What 3D printing does is enable people to make unique, personalized things that can't be mass produced. So, for example, the e-NABLE project ( lets people affordably make prosthetics custom fit for each individual, at a cost of $50 (in materials) instead of $thousands for commercial prosthetic hands. And that's a perfect application of 3D printing because each patient's needs are unique, and 3D printing can provide a cheap solution that's financially accessible to millions of people who can't afford the commercial options.

    But if something can be mass produced, with millions of identical injection molded widgets sold cheaply, it makes no sense to 3D print it, because mass production is astoundingly efficient, and 3D printing adds no value.

    That's why 3D printing guns is strictly a PR tactic to promote a political agenda by associating it with a sexy new technology. In reality, 3D printed guns are terrible guns, and expensive to produce. High quality guns are extremely efficiently mass produced so they are cheap and widely available, and if you want guns that aren't mass produced, people have been making guns in their homes for 200 years. Heck, you can make a better "gun" than a liberator with a piece of wood and a drill, and people have been making them forever. The reason people don't use "zip guns" any more is because they're dangerous, and real guns are so cheap. The "Liberator" is more dangerous to the user, and more expensive.

  • by Ignacio ( 1465 ) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @03:19PM (#46610845)
    What happened to supermarkets when people started being able to grow their own food?
  • Stupidity (Score:5, Informative)

    by jklovanc ( 1603149 ) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @03:20PM (#46610847)

    Thanks for all the stuff, Foxconn, but we get our gadgets from Pirate Bay and MEGA now.

    I really hate these kinds of articles. Foxconn mainly makes electronics like iPhones. There is no way to 3D print an iPhone. The glass can not be printed, The circuit boards can not be printed. The chips can not be printed. Lets get down to reality. 3D printing can make plastic objects and metal objects from a very limited range of material. Most objects we buy use other materials. Where they work they work very well but there are more things than can not be 3D printed than can. Many items that can be 3D printed are still much more economical to produce using conventional methods. For example a stainless steel mixing bowl can be 3D printed but it would take quite a while on a very expensive printer to make one and then would need to be polished. Using presses one could stamp out hundreds in the same time. Just because one can does not mean it is economical.

    This whole "3D printing will change the world" meme is just stupid. Will some things change? Sure. Will a significant portion of manufacturing change? Not likely.

  • We've had the technical capacity to make durable metal items with numerical lathes for a long time, however it remains a skilled job. For the time being home 3D printing is more or less limited to making fragile plastic stuff. I can't see how that will soon start a revolution.

  • even if the economics make it worthwhile to print my own stuff, there are some items that will need to be trusted for their safety and or performance characteristics.
    you won't catch me printing my own car tyres (or even my car) if i can't trust the printer to have the necesary reliability and tolerances and the design to be safe.

    for these requirements we will still need a way to trust the source of designs and the actual manufacturing device, individuals will therefore be able to aquire money/status/chicks/

    • by Belial6 ( 794905 )
      I wouldn't print my own tires either, but I did sell a car once because the foam rubber whether strips that kept the rain from leaking into the car were wearing out. The car ran like a champ, but the rubber strips would have cost in the range of $800 dollars for a car that was only worth about $1200. A 3D printer could have easily made those parts for $10.
  • Like photo printers (Score:2, Interesting)

    by crow ( 16139 )

    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 ma

    • by Animats ( 122034 )

      Remember how photo printers put photo shops out of business?

      Well, yes. I haven't seen any photo shops lately. "1 Hour Photo" is dead. Kinkos has photo printers, and so do the local CVS and Walgreens, but they're not used much. Nobody has an in-store film processor any more. Palo Alto still has Keeble and Shugat, a high end photo equipment store with pro darkroom services. Redwood City has some wedding-photographer types and some commercial printers. That's about it.

      • by tuffy ( 10202 )

        Hardly anybody prints their photos at all these days since people just stick them on the interwebs, but I think the basic argument is sound. Economics of scale mean that it'll likely always be cheaper to buy widgets from some company who cranks them out in the millions than trying to buy a bunch of equipment to print them at home.

      • When I want a print I upload my digital image to a large photo shop, who then return the prints by mail.

        No need to waste oil by driving someplace.

      • Remember how photo printers put photo shops out of business?

        Well, yes. I haven't seen any photo shops lately. "1 Hour Photo" is dead. Kinkos has photo printers, and so do the local CVS and Walgreens, but they're not used much. Nobody has an in-store film processor any more. Palo Alto still has Keeble and Shugat, a high end photo equipment store with pro darkroom services. Redwood City has some wedding-photographer types and some commercial printers. That's about it.

        It wasn't the photo printers, it was the digital cameras, it was the keeping them on a computer instead, mailing a CD, emailing, and texting them that did these places in.

        Lack of demand... same reason people aren't buying printers so much anymore.
        Why own a printer and buy ink when you can just bring your sd card to a Walmart and have them print for you?

        Even after people stop wanting nice shoes, Walmart is going to have a nicer, more efficient shoe printer than you will, unless you are a shoe retailer yourse

  • the freaking Crocks are easy as hell to replicate over and over and over. We were playing with the foam and decided to make some silicone mold's of a brand new set of crocks for my wife and I was able to make 2 more pair for her.

    Shoes that are better than the crap you buy at the store are not hard to make either. Cobbling is actually pretty easy, most people can pick up the leatherworking within 30 days.

    • Shoes that are better than the crap you buy at the store are not hard to make either.

      So I am going to spend thousands on tools, hundreds of material wasted learning and hundreds of hours learning a skill so I can make a pair of shoes every few years that I could buy for a couple of hundred dollars. I doubt it. And then there are the many people who have are not craft inclined and have trouble putiing a nail in the wall to hang a picture. Sorry but there is a reason everyone does not have all skills.

      Crocks are crap and any decent shoe can not be 3D printed.

  • People (=masses, as in democracy) tend to buy from the cheapest source. A home-printed 3D object is not going to be cheaper than a mass-produced trinket imported from China, at least not for a long time.

    Niche is perhaps in manufacturing specific custom shapes that cannot be satisfied by mass-manufacturing.

    Interestingly enough, perhaps Apple users will be the seed market - they are people with money and willing to spend a lot on expensive novelties.

  • This is all crazy stupid wrong. The only thing "new" here is the term "3D printing" itself. Commonly-available hand-tools meant that anyone could build a table in about day. Few people do. Commonly-available home power tools meant that anyone could build a nice table in about an hour. Few people do.

    Right now, odds are that ten people within walking distance in your residential neighbourhood can build your dining room set for half the price that you paid. Again, you won't ask them to and they won't off

  • The population of the planet is predicted to peak around 10-16 billion people. Every one of them needs a toothbrush. At some point in the distant future, resources might become so abundant that most personal property can be produced using something like Star Trek's replicator; however, not in my lifetime.

    3-D printing might make more sense for some products than traditional manufacturing. If you have an old car that is long out of production, producing parts in a printer might make more sense than tooling a factory to produce a limited run of a part for an old car. Anything that people need in the millions though. . . it just does not seem economically competitive to manufacture on demand.

    I do think the retail landscape will change a lot. As the negative impact of personal automobiles become more of a crisis, people will do a lot less offline shopping and will simply have products delivered. I think that manufacturing centers will spring up to produce certain goods on demand, some locally, but eventually much of that will be produced centrally too (in large factories on cheap land) and shipped out to you.

    And, of course, for smaller, less complicated things, 3D printers in the home might move out of the realm of hobbyist into the mainstream, the way many people have a professional quality printer (laser or inkjet) in their home these days, but I don't see most common products being produced on demand. Large factories tooled to a specific product will still be the most efficient way to produce things on a large scale.

  • Timber and nails have been widely available for centuries (or millenia), but they have not put furniture factories out of business yet.
  • 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.

  • Business as Usual, During Alterations by Ralph Williams. []

  • by kimvette ( 919543 ) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @04:22PM (#46611241) Homepage Journal

    I plan to buy a C/CMYK 3D printer so I can manufacture a custom dashboard for my ZR-1 interior and I am looking for ways to make the printer pay for itself (the price tag on the printer approaches the original MSRP of the car). I would not do shoes though because 3D printed shoes would be much like Crocs. Ick. Friends don't let friends wear crocs.

    "That's a nice pair of crocs" said no one, ever.

  • Are there 3D printable materials that allow air to pass through them? If not, we're all gonna have some smelly-ass feet if we're wearing 3D printable shoes.

    You could always put holes in the uppers for ventilation, but in Chicago's winters, you're gonna have wet feet.

  • by AJWM ( 19027 )

    People can (and some do) brew their own beer too, or buy from local microbreweries.

    But I don't see Coors or Anheuser-Busch going out of business anytime soon.

"Well, social relevance is a schtick, like mysteries, social relevance, science fiction..." -- Art Spiegelman