3–D Printers Are Mainstream

3–D printers are now mainstream after they have been around for two or three decades. The big ones at about $20k are out of reach for most of us, but people like J. Leno, car collector and comedian or perhaps I should say comedian and car collector, who is printing out car parts that aren’t manufactured any more (1, 2) can afford to have one tucked away. Or Disney, who are printing toys with light guides and led lights embedded which can respond to stimuli from outside (3), are becoming innovators.

Smaller ones that cost $2k or less are available for the dedicated technophilic geek (3, 4, 5, 6, 7) who may want an absorbing hobby or may be trying to start a business. For example, the entrepreneurs who came up with the idea of printing guns (8) but got shut down, as it seems to require a license to do that. Would that also be true of replica guns or some wild new design reminiscent of a Sci-Fi weapon?

Reprap (4) had a great idea in that their first printer was designed in such a way that it could print out parts to make another one. The prototype couldn’t do it all, but they are getting to that stage and they hope to be able to include their printed circuits in the print run. So we are seeing machines that can clone themselves ad lib and the growth could be exponential.

The vision of the brave new world of all robots coming along with their personal 3–D printers so that they can not only repair themselves, but get busy and assemble their clones is very definitely not just the figment of one’s imagination after too many hours in the bar.

So now that we are able to say “Have printer, will travel” as a promise to arrive on someone’s doorstep and spend an afternoon printing the Christmas presents for the kids is fine, but there is a snag. It’s all in the software. Not necessarily in the difficulty of any coding – easy for a technophilic geek – but in the scanned in details of the objects for the delight on Christmas morning around the tree.

Those files are where the income streams will come from. Sites could be set up where we could pay a fee and use them for a specified number of runs, or time, or for a higher fee purchase them. The BBC report (3) indicates that files are already showing up on Pirate Bay.

  1. http://www.webpronews.com/the-3d-printed-car-may-not-be-too-far-off-2012-08
  2. http://www.stratasys.com/Products/Overview.aspx 
  3. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-19818815
  4. http://reprap.org/wiki/Main_Page
  5. http://deezmaker.com/bukobot/
  6. http://store.makerbot.com/replicator2.html
  7. http://www.webpronews.com/another-cheap-3d-printer-looks-to-kickstarter-for-funding-2012-10
  8. http://www.webpronews.com/diy-gun-project-put-on-hold-as-creators-have-their-3d-printer-seized-2012-10

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