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tlb 525 days ago | link | parent

Imagine this article, but in 1977 and replacing 3D printer with computer. It would have been wrong, because computers improved rapidly and got cheaper, smaller, faster, lower power, etc.

Almost all the reasons in the article are problems with the current price, size, and reliability of 3D printers.

Someday, there will be a machine that will whip out objects so easily that you'd use it to make a doorstop.



krschultz 525 days ago | link

That simply isn't true. 90% of the things you can 3D print you can machine with a CNC mill. 10% of the things you can make with a CNC mill you can make with a 3D printer.

If residential manufacturing was coming, it would have come a long time ago via CNC technology. Additive vs subtractive is really just a methodology. There are probably more people out there that need custom metal parts for their car, boat, motorcycle hobby than people that only need plastic parts for their hobby. Although I know several with CNC mills and lathes in their garage, it is simply not going main stream.

I think 3D printing has a lot of value (especially 3D printing powered aluminum to make low-volume plastic injection molds), but I don't think you will see one in every home.

(Mechanical Engineer here)

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ricw 525 days ago | link

I don't think you're getting the point he's made. Speed, price and quality will improve dramatically over time (we bought a £90k 3d printer a year ago that now has two subsequent successors). In fact the rate of development is almost scary in turns of depreciation of 3d printers. This will enable the widespread use of printers. Maybe not in every home, just like cars are not being owned by everyone. But it will come as your issues are only temporary. Though you have a point in that traditional manufacturing techniques such as cnc milling, moulding etc will still be widely used..

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ekianjo 525 days ago | link

Nope the article does not focus so much on price. It says 3d printers are getting cheaper and cheaper. But his points are valid: just like it does not make sense to carve your own furniture for everything, it does not make sense to do 3D printing for everything in your house either, because you need different kind of materials for different kind of purpose and no 3d printer is going to be able to reproduce every kind of plastic used around you. Plastic is not just plastic, there are thousands of different polymers used in different industries. Not all of them could be used in a 3D printer setting (some can only be molded under high pressure and high temperature).

I may be wrong, but I think you are falling into the typical false technological assumption that a new technology will revolutionize everything just because it becomes available. I mean, look at computers. Even though they are becoming ubiquitous there are not computers in every object we use every day. A lot of our home equipment is still based on "stupid" electronics because it's good enough in most cases.

3D printers will become more common, more reliable and cheaper as the market develops, but when you can order something on Amazon for 3 dollars and have it delivered at your door in one day, there is a strong competition as to what is the best/most effortless way to get the thing in question. If your goal is to make unique objects that you cannot find anywhere, then, sure, 3d printers are the future, but most of us are living in environments where many things have been standardized, and products fitting these standards are readily available.

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ippisl 525 days ago | link

>> If your goal is to make unique objects that you cannot find anywhere, then, sure, 3d printers are the future

In reality, uniqueness is overrated. Given a really large pool of objects to choose from(which are manufactured in mid quantities) , there's not a lot of consumer need for unique objects.

The largest market consumers do need unique objects is the healthcare market. But the economics there are totally different. for example 3d printing of dental crowns existed for a long time , but it doesn't(yet) captured the market with lower cost solutions(although it certainly has the power to do so, technically).

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grannyg00se 525 days ago | link

Computers had no competition for their use case. There was nothing that came close to storing, processing, and transmitting information like that. The only thing stopping them from being used everywhere was size and price. If you were dealing with information, you would benefit from a computer as soon as you could afford one.

3D printing is not like that. There is already an entire set of industries built to produce widgets. 3D printing doesn't offer any benefit except for customized items. So how often do you need something customized? No matter how cheap 3D printers are, it's always going to be cheaper to get somebody else to print a one-off for you using their machine. You don't use it all day multiple times a day. You pay them for that one-off, and then you don't need a 3D printer again for a long time.

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notJim 525 days ago | link

Hmm, it's interesting to think about. My initial reaction to it is that I don't have a day-to-day need to manufacture stuff, because when I moved into my first solo apartment, I gradually bought the stuff I wanted to have (thinking things like furniture, various electronics, dishes, storage, etc.). I occasionally add or replace something, but that's something that happens at the scale of once or twice per month at most. I certainly don't need a machine sitting around that I have to buy and maintain and supply to fulfill this need.

With computers, there are a lot of day-to-day tasks that become much easier. For example, before computer, everyone had to balance their checkbooks in order to know how much money they had. Now you can just log into your bank website or mint.com. People used to correspond by phone and physical letter to keep in touch with relatives (also on a daily or at least weekly basis), and now that's much easier.

It's hard to say though. With computers, our "need" to perform large-scale automation and computation grew to fill the new capacity. Manufacturing is not as clear cut, but it seems reasonable to theorize that if our abilities to manufacture things grows, our "need" to do so will as well.

And let's not forget that with computers, there was a period where people were saying much the same things that we're saying now.

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EvanMiller 525 days ago | link

That's good to hear, because I am constantly running out of doorstops in my home. With current technology I have to go the hardware store 2-3 times a week just to pick up new doorstops. If I had a 3D printer in my home, I could simply print out new doorstops every morning, and never have to worry again about needing a doorstop at 2 AM when the hardware store is closed.

I'm not sure where I'd get the raw plastic, though. Do they sell that at the hardware store?

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SilasX 525 days ago | link

Hm ... "Computers are only good for those problems that can be reduced to a bunch of truth table look-ups."

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noonespecial 525 days ago | link

That statement is true though. It just becomes something altogether different when your truth tables have billions of entries.

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InclinedPlane 525 days ago | link

Also he looks at the future through the lens of today. When you do this you can easily get into a situation where you find a way that it is just not possible for something to work the way it does today using a new technology, and that causes you to discount the value of the technology but it should also prompt you to consider the possibility of change. For example, smartphones are bad for making voice calls on, but people tend to use their smartphones for other things than making voice calls these days.

One thing that I think might happen is that various consumer items may become even more disposable (or perhaps more recyclable). More than that, I suspect that manufacturing itself may become increasingly viewed as a temporary, disposable utility. Right now making most goods requires extensive capital investment in factories and assembly lines, which tend to be large permanent fixtures. But what if manufacturing could be transitory? What if you only needed to make a small run of something? What if you could bootstrap a production line from a small core of machine tools and then dispose of the materials afterward? What if you could efficiently and rapidly break down the production line into its component recyclable parts?

Coupled with completely automated configurable manufacturing I think these innovations will revolutionize our relationship with manufactured goods and with manufacturing. Manufacturing will not be something one consumes it will be something that most people do (either through proxies or through "disposable" production lines or both). The era of cloned consumer goods may give way to an era of boutique goods and to transitory goods. Do you need a radio? Print one off at the corner factory then have it automatically disassembled and 100% recycled when you are done with it. Do you want to give your kids a set of toy soldiers to play with? Set up a quick production line at home and produce a set, then dispose of the machinery. Then recycle the toys when your kids grow bored of them. Don't worry, it'll be just as easy to print more if they want to play with them again.

This is a world that will confound our imaginations because it will disrupt the assumptions that are so deep seated we don't even know we have them and it will create new opportunities and change the balance of feasibility in ways that we lack the creativity to think of, yet.

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001sky 525 days ago | link

The issues raised about the materials engineering are not trivial. If you are in the market for custom designs, you are likely looking to spec high-grade parts/materials, for a special use.

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