Thoughts on 3D Printing and…
Posted by Plish on November 14, 2012
Zintro recently blogged on the future of 3D printing. My thoughts are quoted in the article along with those of some colleagues.
In short, 3D printing (in all its facets) still isn’t on the ‘verge’ of launching into the mainstream. Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a place for 3D printing in the world. I use it myself for testing product fit and function. But, even with newer materials being developed all the time, there are still limitations, especially for the ‘home printing’ demographic.
There’s also the problem with designing parts on your computer. Before anything can be printed it needs to first exist in the digital realm. In other words, the part needs to be built twice- virtually before it can be made in actuality.
The expertise to do this isn’t there yet. Computer Aided Design programs are pretty complicated. Even newer ones like Autodesk 123D, while they’re simpler, are not suited to anything other than the simplest parts. At the end of the design process, if someone isn’t willing to plunk down from $500-$5000, the model has to be sent to a place like Ponoko to be made.
So what does that mean?
There are some cool applications for 3D printing, especially in the medical realm. Still, the perfect fit for something that’s built layer by layer hasn’t been found.
Which brings me to another technology that’s slipped under the radar. While 3D printing’s promise of “You can make anything for yourself at any time!” is capturing headlines, this other technology is low-cost and capable of creating more than just toys.
Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform. The parts are easy to find at a Radio Shack or online. To bring those parts to life, one needs to learn to program, and programming is a language.
Learning this language is within the reach of anyone with access to the internet or bookstore. With some basic knowledge, and tapping into a wealth of online expertise, you can design interactive products and environments.
Here’s a video from one of the founders of Arduino. He echoes many of my sentiments but one line is particularly memorable:
“You don’t need anyone’s permission to make something great.”
The whole concept of intellectual property and patents will face some serious reckoning in the next 10 years.