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<nettime> Why the 3D printing revolution won't happen in your garage
nettime's avid reader on Fri, 24 Aug 2012 10:04:34 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Why the 3D printing revolution won't happen in your garage

Why the 3D printing revolution won’t happen in your garage
By Ryan Whitwam on August 22, 2012 at 8:03 am

-> extremetech.com / http://tinyurl.com/cvv2csl

No one can deny that 3D printing is really cool from a purely
technological standpoint. The idea that physical objects can be
rapidly fabricated from digital files is fascinating, and could change
the world. However, it’s very possible that we’ve all gotten so caught
up in the 3D printing hype that our collective hopes have been unduly
raised. 3D printing is going to spur a legitimate manufacturing
revolution; just not in your home.

It is true that the technology is rapidly coming down in price. You
can get a MakerBot these days for about $2000. In the next few years
this kind of consumer 3D printer could get down to a few hundred
bucks if you buy smart on Black Friday. Just because something is
affordable, though, doesn’t mean people actually have a use for it.

The overwhelming majority of homes don’t need a 3D printer, and that’s
not really going to change. Most of us barely even use our 2D printers
anymore! If you look at the kinds of objects being printed in these
low-cost 3D printers you will see art projects, semi-professional
design work, and knickknacks. Printing an MP3 player shaped like a
cassette tape might be neat (I think so), but it’s not an example of
practical at-home use.

In the next few years, I suspect we’re going to see disillusionment
with the idea of owning a 3D printer. The machinery will be cheaper
and more capable, perhaps integrating a larger array of materials, but
most people still won’t have a real use for them. If you don’t want
one now, you probably won’t want one in a few years.

PrintingThere’s always the hope that 3D printing will provide a way to
fabricate replacement parts when something breaks or wears out. This
might even come up for you occasionally, but how often? A few times a
year? It’s probably not worth keeping a 3D printer in the house for
those rare occasions. We live in a world where the things we buy are
increasingly becoming non-repairable; just look at how much harder car
and computer repairs have become. You won’t be able to fix as many
things in the future, but 3D printing might have a role in making
those non-repairable items in the first place.

The way this technology changes everything isn’t in your garage,
but in local manufacturing. When 3D printing hits the point that
complicated items can be easily created, that’s how it’s going to be
used in industry. Yes, this technology will trickle down to the future
equivalent of the MakerBot, but it won’t ever be as good as what you
can get if you head down to your local professional 3D printer or
hardware store.

Don’t feel too down — 3D printing isn’t going anywhere as the insane
levels of hype die down. You’ll be able to buy them and print
increasingly neat stuff as time goes on. However, at-home 3D printing
will remain the domain of enthusiasts. Most people will be perfectly
happy to buy items that were printed elsewhere with higher quality
machinery than they themselves have the desire or inclination to run.
Cheaper high-quality products will make it to stores thanks to 3D
printing, and you will probably be able to get custom items printed
for a pittance. We don’t need to treat 3D printers like personal Star
Trek replicators for the technology to change the world.

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