|3D Printed Christmas Tree via Flickr User “Creative Tools“|
During a book signing Mr. Anderson met with the Zdnet writer, Tom Foremski, who noted that additive manufacturing and 3D printing are a long way from being an industrial revolution. One of the main reasons he states is the limitation on materials
If 3D printers could handle melted cheese, sugar, or chocolate, I could see a future for them in the home. But I wouldn’t leave my day job.
It’s a good point that for 3D printers to become commonplace they will have to span the wide variety of materials used in everyday goods, but all of those mentioned are already available. Time has run articles showing some delicious printing of chocolate.
There are other assumptions made in the article that smack technological advancement in the face.
A home 3D printer that can create a product with multiple materials, such as ceramics and metals, hasn’t been invented and won’t be for many years.
Digging into this becomes a matter of semantics. First off, printers for both ceramics and metals exist. Now shapeways is not a “home” printer in the strictest sense of the word but it does nicely combine desktop computing, home 3D modeling, and a quick turn web based customer experience that rivals the home. The 12-16 business days (the turnaround time for shapeways) is barely an improvement over traditional machining but my point here is that these technologies DO exist. The statement that it will be “many years” before they make it to the home is something that should be backed up by at least a review of current technology.
I am not arguing that tomorrow everyone will go out and buy a 3D printer. My opinion is that a technological infrastructure will start cropping up before it becomes something household. Think along the lines of Kinko’s stores or, to use the ever popular corollary of desktop printing, the racks and racks of printer cartridges carried by office supply stores. Even this is development is starting, MakerBot, a leader in personal fabrication machines, just opened their first store. And Mcor technologies has already developed a printer that works by using standard reams of paper. Once there is an easy to manage consumable and a reasonably priced machine (really not far off considering some things like the 3DS Cube) or a retail presence for additive fabrication it then only a matter of who wants to adopt the technology. .
Both Mr. Foremski, of ZdNet, and Mr. Anderson, formerly of Wired, have great points on the current technology but I must say that my personal feeling are much closer to Mr. Anderson. A true “industrial revolution” will be something that can not be foreseen by all but the most creative and futuristic thinkers, who likely are to be laughed off as crazy until the day that their ideas prove true. Could it be in 3 years that my oven can access all of the ingredients in my pantry or fridge to 3D print a lasagna, or maybe I’ll be in the mood for baked Ziti. Maybe when I lose the remote I’ll be able to duck into the home office and “find” it magically in the output of a printer. Certainly It surely will be interesting to see where the new revolution takes us.
Check out more articles about 3D printing.