enter the age of 3D printing

my problem with things today is that it’s going to become virtually impossible to play. electronics is a good example. so many of the parts are surface mount only. meaning you can’t just whomp something together on a bread board. but to push the idea even further, there is no way for two guys in a garage to make an iPod. okay they could but look at the skill set they have to have to make it happen.

I read a Rudy Rucker book where lots of the tech is mindblowingly complex. tech that was so hard that a humans couldn’t even be involved after a certain point. yet interfaces to tech creation allowed the characters to control making without thinking about who made who (robot making tech based on human interaction). the book Makers mentions combining complex programming projects into a greater object. this concept of reusing code is tossed out there like it’s no big deal. but fiction always over simplifies making because the story would become boring otherwise. to most people man landing on the moon is a sound bite even though it took the better part of 20 years (don’t forgot all the work before the Kennedy speech) to get there.

I’ve had a lot of printers in my life from letter quality daisy wheels to dot matrix to dye sub to laser. and at some level the businesses I ran wouldn’t have been possible without the leveraged use I got from printing without limits. Tom pointing that this same thing is right here with 3D printing is telling.

1) it’s ground zero. think of MakerBot“>Makerbot as a Epson MX-80
2) there potential for hundreds of new business
3) be prepared to see lots of failure as it engages
4) plastics and resins are toxic. stand by for regulation in California.

the discussion last night over dinner before the show was about lots of different things but one subject was “I want one but I don’t know why I want one.” this was Kanen answering the question do you want a 3D printer because making 2 is just as easy as making 1.

I think wanting one of these is the same as back when I had an Apple II of wanting a MX-80 printer. or a printer of any kind. it wasn’t that I needed to print lots of things. it was the idea of having a printer right there next to me. that way I didn’t have to wait to use somebody else’s. over time printers got better. my Epson became a C-Itoh, then it was a Panasonic, next it was a ImageWriter and not too long after became an ImageWriter II which was my last dot matrix printer. after that it was lasers and film printers all the way.

there is something satisfying about printing a stack of paper that is the manuscript / report / script / outline or whatever needs to be on paper to use properly. when tracking takes for a voice production I can’t imagine NOT doing that on paper. and proof reading copy just looks different when it lands on dead trees. [note about editing: the trick of course is to make the copy look different. I can write all day long in whatever typeface but if I want to proof read it I have to copy paste into a different werp and change the font and size so I can “see it”.]

so yeah, that’s been my question since the possibility of having one came up back in May. these things are all around me. really. there’s a MakerBot an email away. and Shapeways will send me anything I can dream up. I even bought some tools to help me make things.

so here’s the very thing that I’m getting my head around in making my lens mount. I don’t have to fab it think about “machining” like I would if I was building from PVC, aluminum and other hardware. right angles aren’t even a requirement. one thing that comes to mind right off in learning to think like this is what Apple is doing. the original Mac Mini was the first thing that was made from a block of aluminum. it might have come out of a poured mold in approximately it’s final shape and then milled. but I bet it was milled from a block. hatched as a plan to learn how to make more complex shapes from the beginning. look at the white keyboards. those are bi-products of iMacs. and iPhone 4 is a complex shape made from even more exotic material.

if hindsight tells us anything it’s that getting in on the ground floor is a good idea. you don’t have to be the first in line but being there is that important. while I didn’t have the first laser printer I had the next one. and that was a better printer. it was fast, consistent and the type looked better than what came out of the letter quality printer. and what did I make with my printer? a software publishing business. back then software was as much about paper as it was the program.

but what could 3D printing do as a future business? printing “wood” gives a whole new way to look at “cheap wood pulp waste.” there’s no need for things to be cheap looking just because the manufacturing process prefers flat, wide, long that gets made in to shelves, entertainment centers and desks. using a combination of materials could automatically build in great surfaces that live on top of super strong latices grown out of a nozzle. this kind of thing would change the place of manufacturing. no need to make in China and ship it. just ship goo to Walmart. and because waste is every where goo doesn’t have to be made in a specific place. it’s just like concrete.

I’m interested because I see opportunity. it’s curious that the businesses popping up around 3d printing resembles the floppy in a zip lock bag stage that software publishing went through in the 80’s. that somehow buying a hardware kit and some precut wood is going to make your build much easier than just going to Home Labyrinth and finding the same thing there. I don’t think I’ll start a kit business printing printer parts. think been there somebody is already doing that. I am excited to see what my mind will come up with then the rig is sitting there wanting to do something.

and that’s why “I want one!”

links you might like to read:

why I love my 3D printer from a 10 year old’s perspective

trillion dollar industry and the age of 3d printing.

Print Crime and Makers

hopefully they won’t screw up 3D printers

Alibre Design

printer as part of it not the end of it

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6 Replies

  • Hey guys, what do you know about Shapeways? I don’t mean to shill for them, but they seem pretty cool. You upload your model and they print it. Plus you can make your design available to others for purchase. Looks as if they charge you for the cost of the materials, and the complexity of the model does not matter.
    Would like to hear your take on what makes them different.

    • shapeways is an exciting company. they keep expanding the kind of materials they offer. they recently added metal!

      there are a bunch of reasons why you would use them for printing. one of which is the precision of the print. the resolution they offer is far greater then you’d get with a home built product. they can print multiple colors depending on the material. the best part is that you are getting your object without having to tweak over it. there is somebody taking care of the printers to make sure they are top quality.

      the downside of Shapeways is that you really don’t exactly know what you are making until well after you press send.

  • So, for kicks, I ordered a few “prints” from Shapeways. I purchased a couple baubles designed by other users. (A freaky sculpture that you could never make with injection molding, and a replica of one of MC Escher’s knots.) And now I’m a believer, this IS the next trillion dollar industry. I don’t know how Shapeways turned a profit on my little $25 purchase.
    Once I had the objects in hand, I was reminded of how you compare today’s 3D printing to the early dot matrix printers. The Shapeways objects in the so-called strong flexible plastic have a fine, grainy texture to them. It’s like 400 grit sand paper. I imagine that other materials will have the same dots per cubic inch characteristics.
    How long before we have 3D “photo”copiers in our homes? Think of something like RealViz Autodesk ImageModeler, a lazy susan and a MakerBot.

  • When I rebuilt my iTunes library I forgot to re-subscribe to knowtech. I just re-subscribed- Best podcast ever of course.
    I have the same feeling – I need a 3D printer but I don’t know why. Makers is great, provided you stop reading 1/3 of the way through, and Printcrime describes a likely future.

    Must go create something to print using Shapeways.

  • There is a tiny mistake in your text: The Mini was not the first product milled from a solid aluminum block. The venerable Hasselblad cameras are way older, and I doubt that even they were the first.

    3-D printing is all the rage with modeltrain fans ATM.

    • the Mini was, we’re pretty sure, the first Apple product that was made from milled aluminum. but you are correct in pointing out that lots of other products were made using this technique long before it was done by robot.

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