Someone else always owned a printer and I just used it (Kinkos, library, work, school).
I would hope it would be the same with a 3D printer. I don't want to have one. I don't want to buy ink or parts or worry about it or have it obsoleted in 2 years time.
But if I want something 3D printed, I certainly hope that there will be stores nearby with high quality printers that are far better than the median at-home printer.
Edit: I should mention that MakeIt Labs (hackerspace) in my little New Hampshire city already has a Replicator 2.
If you're designing the object, a shorter iteration process means faster learning and better creative flow. There's a significant difference between being able to think something up and try it out within an hour vs waiting a week for it. If you're a programmer, it's the difference between having a REPL and sending a deck of punch cards for overnight batch processing.
The current designs of single head FDM machines average about 60mm/s. The fastest XY heads can achieve 400mm/s, and the deltabots are around 300mm/s or so. There is an upper limit to how fast you can move a head around, but it doesn't feel like we've hit it yet.
In addition, I think as the FDM designs get explored and played out, we'll see explorations in other possibly faster methods. So as the home desktop printers get faster, I believe it'll find a niche that's different than what you'd do with online 3D printing services.
I've heard that with a 3d printer you can print another 3d printer, so maybe it can upgrade itself?
So for the few things I may want to print each year, I'd rather go to a print shop/library/work/etc.
Also wouldn't there already be an industry that makes 3D printers? Why would the car companies try to go into that business?
"Low Interest" loans
Moved back home with my parents, christmas / birthday was coming up. I was looking into some printers (I was going to get the Solidoodle 2) to get. I was talking to my friend about it one night, said to myself "Whatever, I'll just make it!" (not sure why that thought popped in my head). 6 weeks after that, I have this thing: http://imgur.com/a/FZfp9 in my room. Wish I would have documented the build process better.
I wanted one because I'm making a cool product and needed to make some cases for it.
I use LinuxCNC to run it with a HobbyCNC stepper driver board, and it actually works pretty well! If I could make one 'enhancement' for it, I would make native gcode arcs work in slic3r, as I can hit 60-80 mm/s on a straight away, but around corners it gets to ~25 mm/s.
I've found two 'killer' uses. My nieces and nephew come over, they want to make something (my nephew asked for keys one day). We pulled up thingiverse, he picked one out that he liked, 45 minutes later he has keys.
The second one is being able to design something and see it almost instantaneously. Is this going to fit? How does this look? Would it work better this way? You don't need to sit and twiddle your thumbs for so long, as you can test out a ton of ideas.
One of the pains is the calibration for this thing - I made this script (which definitely needs some work) https://github.com/MercuryRising/dic3r to aid in calibration. You can calibrate your build plate (it makes a skirt of your platform size, so you can even it out while it's running) and I think it does extrusion multiplier calibration. The one thing that I think is really cool for it is variable density (specify a Z height to merge two different slices of stl). You can make stuff like this: http://imgur.com/a/B26e5 with different infill patterns.
I'd pay current prices for machines (the relatively consumer-level ones that are like $500-2000) that are faster and produce better output without having to do acetone-based "post-processing". I'd pay less than current prices for the current tech just to dick around with, but I don't want to pay the current prices for the current tech. As impressive as the price levels are already, I'm unlikely to get enough practical benefit out of one to make it worth laying down "real money".
I'm absolutely sure I will own one sooner or later, but not today.
3D printers allow objects that don't need the economy of scale to work in its favor to come into being. If you're to compare 3D printed objects to things you can buy at Walmart, then of course, in most specs the 3D printer would lose. However, what a 3D printer allows you to make are all the things that you can't get at Walmart, either because the volume wasn't big enough to get it made, or people that could imagine didn't know how to get something made.
If price is less of a consideration, but time is more important, then you may find it's better to use a 3D printed service, so you don't have to maintain the machine. Or if you don't print very often. Or the object you want to print is relatively small, so it doesn't break your wallet.
The advantages you cite, such as higher quality and less hassle, will diminish, given the pace and directions for improvement of the current generation of 3D printers. I believe different materials and hence printing techniques, will remain a differentiator of online printing services for the foreseeable future.
Not everything is the world is purely functional.
Absolutely agreed. I love a stylish nick-knacks and neat design details as much as the next person but there seems to be a disconnect in the 3D printing world. On the one hand everybody talks about the revolutionary effect of home 3d printers, and on the other hand the only examples people have ever shown me are children's toys and stylish nick-knacks. Where are the at least mostly functional examples?
Also note Clay Shirky's belief that the most disruptive tech initially appears to be a toy to most.
I have to admit, I have the same problem with 3d printing and think that some of the newer materials (stainless steel for example) will really improve the functional designs, especially as the cost decreases.
Disclaimer: I work at Shapeways
I also know that people should have fun in their lives, and yet I can't help but facepalm at people happily driving SUVs around. In the grand scheme of things, the impact of each is tiny, but it confuses me that it's being celebrated by so many smart people. :/
Disclaimer: I work for shapeways
Joking aside: I have a few spare time projects where I am going to need some way of producing mechanical parts. For instance I am designing an integrated device for controlling the flow rate of dialysis fluid during peritoneal dialysis fluid exchange. I've been working on this for a while and have gone through many designs. Mostly as a learning exercise.
I think that in a few years it will be more common for people to make simple objects in their home. Brackets, mounts, adapters etc. I'm not sure if a lot of people will necessarily be involved in designing parts, but through the wonder that is the internet: you'll have vast repositories of ready made designs that can be printed.
A friend of mine got a 3D printer and I think he spent the first few weeks printing upgrades to the printer itself. Then he started printing parts for his CNC machine. And right now he is building a really exciting-looking, large 3D printer from scratch using ... his 3D printer.
But he also prints parts for lots of other projects. Among them various DIY medical equipment that we have been designing together.
I think the biggest obstacle for putting 3D printers to good use is that people just are not used to having the capability to make physical objects. It is like when the first personal computers came on the market: people played around with them and in theory you could do useful things with them -- but programming was new to people. It took a good decade or so before computers were useful at home, but in that time they had served a much more important purpose: to make programming a relatively mainstream skill.
Designing mechanical objects is unfamiliar territory for most of us. Traditionally this has required really, really expensive, specialized software that up until now only professionals were into. Compare it to when digital photography went mainstream and companies like Adobe were too dumb to catch on -- I still hear people defend the exorbitant price of Photoshop with "oh, only professionals would want that kind of power". Which is utter nonsense.
I have to say that Autodesk have impressed me in this respect. Although their software lineup is extremely confusing at times they have released some really neat software for free. For instance I have been using Inventor Fusion lately and it is great. (I've also used Fusion 360, which is not so great because their intent seems to be to combine it with some cloud service, and that cloud service is very far from being usable. They probably saw Thingiverse and figured they wanted a piece of that action). But I think it is brilliant of them to make good tools available for the Mac -- the people you want to reach use Macs and Linux).
Also, designing physical objects requires skills that are not mainstream. I find myself looking at objects in a very new way. I try to understand how the shape is modeled, how it is supposed to deal with stress etc.
These are very exciting times. I wish I was 18 again.
I could even see custom modeling my own miniatures for other games, either tabletop RPGs like D&D or wargames like Warhammer or any of the others.
I guess if you even look back on the origins of the personal computer, people gave very narrow reasons for its use and failed to make the connection to how it could be valuable outside of those reasons (outside of the angels/venture capitalists and entrepreneurs).
Currently, I'm working on getting my first laser cutting order through Ponoko. Hopefully that's all going to work out.
I have a Replicator 2X coming in the mail within a month.
Lately I've started printing in "618 Nylon," a polymer which prints detail more easily than ABS, does not require bed heating (saves lots of time), and is much stronger than PLA.
I don't feel that 3D printing lets me do anything I couldn't before, but, as someone who makes things, it does let me take hardware from idea to conclusion much more quickly. So far I use it mostly to make parts for hobby projects, like the frame and landing gear for my quadcopter as well as enclosures and fastening hardware for an electric bike and control system.
I don't see FDM 3D printing disrupting traditional volume manufacturing in almost any industry simply because it's slow and finicky compared to subtractive CNC (milling) or molding. However, if you make things personally or professionally 3D printing turns any situation where you'd be Dremeling, drilling, and sanding a prototype to test before paying a shop to make samples for you into a pleasurable and cheap experience instead of a painful and expensive one.
I got my 618 from Octave Systems, but it's pretty common at most of the online printer suppliers now.
618 is a little iffy with the stock Solidoodle 2 hot end because the insulator is PTFE, which could start to decompose around the upper end of 618 extrusion temperatures. Thankfully, 618 has a wide range of temperatures at which it works (albeit with a bit less strength), so you can compromise and still get wonderful results.
My girlfriend had one in our apartment until we moved it out to another space recently. She can still visit it there if need be and I assume I can tag along if I wanted to use that one. I also have access to another two printers at TechShop. Then there's also one at noisebridge and a wide range of other printers available at various places and online on a kind of pay per print system.
Given all that, I don't know why we'd want one in our apartment again. I'm certainly glad not to still be up at 2am because the printer's still loudly doing its best to print a part it started on hours and hours ago. Also the technology at the moment is fairly limited especially when it comes to the type of printers you see in the "personal at home printing" space / budgets, and I think it'd be awhile before I found a compelling one I'd want for myself. (They're also a little pricey for most people I think.) Also it's nice that for a lot of the printers I have access to, I'm not the one who has to fix them when they break. Which is a thing that happened a bunch to some of the early models and something I don't think is a whole lot of fun to deal with. Obviously some people think it's a blast to tinker with the things and those are the type of folks that'll probably get a decent amount out of having one. I just prefer to tinker with other things.
Thus mechanical fabrication is a problem, and automated fabrication is better than manual fabrication, both from a fit and finish perspective and a design perspective.
That said, I've met people with 3D printers who printed like half a dozen things on them and then stopped. They couldn't think of new things to print. They were excited about the concept but it hasn't worked out or the finish wasn't actually as good as they had imagined it would be.
If you are a robotics enthusiast I think its a great tier 2 tool, like an Oscilloscope.
Computers had evident uses people craved for even when nobody had one at home: coin-op arcade games for example drove huge crowds. Writers used electronic typewriters with small displays and would be better off using an editor program. And a spreadsheet was a killer app for any small office -- they already used calculators. Add communications and entertainment to that (mail, chat, www, video) and computers had tons of killer uses.
A 3D printer is a one trick pony. It merely prints stuff. (Well, a computer is a one-trick pony too, it just "processes information", but in the realm of information this amounts to infinite possibilities).
People that like tinkering and DYI will love one -- but they are not that many. The general public, not so much.
They can create any thing/part they want themselves? Well, the thing is, generally they don't want stuff created. And when they do, they can also have some factory create them somewhere and buy them. And even if they needed something extra-custom, they could order it to a 3D printing shop down the road, and be spared all the trouble of owning a 3D printing, managing supplies, learning the software, etc.
The analogy with the home computers is interesting, because people are even scaling down on buying home computers. The general public finds that the limited stuff they wants to do, they can do it with a smartphone and a tablet (and maybe an ultraportable, for the more needy).
Heck, tons of normal people don't even like owning 2D printers (and have always had lots of problems configuring and operating even them, as evident by any support forum).
3D printing on the other hand fundamentally has difficulty delivering many things people want it to do, and the things it actually can do are fairly niche. Mainly prototyping, to my knowledge.
If 3D printers could already print forged steel or 14nm transistors (but at great cost) I'd say the future is very bright, because cost and size naturally come down, but they can't do that yet.
3D printers on the other hand have 3 big barriers: 1) they're rather expensive, 2) creating an CAD object ≢ creating a word document and 3) there are not many truly compelling printable objects yet.
Edit: I stand corrected.
* They try (and arguably succeed at) cloning Unix.
* The adopt a permissive license for sharing and copying.
Beyond this, they're 2 completely different projects with nothing more in common. Heck, even the "permissive licenses" they each use are contradicting in philosophy.
You seem to imply that Linux has reached ubiquity on the desktop because MacOSX is based on BSD. This is just wrong.
> * They try (and arguably succeed at) cloning Unix.
No, the BSDs actually are Unix, in a genetic sense.
Not everyone is going to want to use a 3d printer, but I feel like those of us who do want them but don't have them just don't feel that the price justifies the quality of current printers.
The other barrier to ubiquitous 3d printer use is, in my opinion, a lack of cheap 3d scanning technology. Sure, you can use the laser line w/ turntable and camera scanner, but there are a number of issues, concavities and post-scan modeling work being the two largest I see. There are algorithms which can be used to take a webcam video feed and generate a 3d model from that, like proFORMA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEOmzjImsVc
,but the source to that was never released. There are commercial products which can do this, but I think that until there is an open source/free option for this kind of scanning, it's going to be another barrier to people getting 3d printers.
I personally find the current generation of 3D printers still a bit clunky and expensive to have in my own house, but I found it fairly easy to find a place to play with one. The London Hackerspace, for example, has been a good place, but also the various reprap/3dprint communities are very active over here.
(If there's not one nearby, you could always start one... when I cofounded a hackerspace I met a lot more than 15 new people who wanted to share 3d printers and the like!)
In any case, 15 sounds like a bit of a logistical nightmare even if you did have that many people in your local friends circle interested enough to go in for a 3D printer.
Edit: To add, I've never even needed to order anything from Shapeways to date. For sure I'll need it when I start building robots. I think there should be some kind of new trend hobby which requires or is complementary to custom 3D printed parts, like robot building or something similar.
For certain kinds of people, having one would really be helpful. Some of the designers in the 3D printing space obviously get a lot of use out of them, and having to order all that stuff through shapeways and wait for the designs would be slow and expensive.
I find that now that I own a 3D printer, I use it more than I thought I would. There is a ton of cool stuff on Thingivierse, and it's fun to just print out someone's cute little design. I've taken to painting them like little models for fun.
Another advantage is that 3D printers actually have a community around it and people pushing its boundaries, as well as new companies forming in the space to push the tech forward. That's bound to make it better--or at the very least, explore what's possible. I don't see the same thing happening with CNC machines. No new CNC machine startups that I hear about.
Are similar things happening in CNC machining communities? From my vantage point, it doesn't seem like it.
If you don't want to do it yourself, you can buy complete from-the-factory benchtop CNC mills (Little Machine Shop: $4500, Tormach: $6k-$8k). If you don't need the size, you can get desktop CNC mills, "ready to run" for about the same price as doing it yourself (Sherline: $2k-$3k).
Also, your magic $10k price-point mill doesn't include the cost of tooling, or workholding, or CAD/CAM software, etc. So now you're just reaching for anything to inflate the cost back up to your number.
That's the dream, of course. It isn't really a reality yet.
Oh, and CNC machines are big an expensive. Again, people dream that 3d-printers will be smaller, cheaper, and even faster.
Cheap CNC machines are about the same price as 3d printers now.
Been working on one from a MakerGear kit for 6 months now on and off. Down to the calibration and a bad endstop now it seems. There was a good article recently on how to know which path to go down re: purchasing a printer prebuilt vs. a kit vs. buying individual parts that was a good read.
Did you use a kit or by individual parts?
I have actually used it for not just the toys/fun you see on the blog, but also some actual parts in my home that broke too.
Yes, it's truly an early adopter's point, with pain, & costs, & trouble. Yes, you can order parts from shapeways.com & ponoko.com without having your own machine.
But, this is truly magic, in that it brings mechanical iterations into the realm of software, with reduced cycle time.
Before these things, as a mechanical engineer in the 90's, any iteration would be 2-4 weeks, & $2-4k, and now, I can do 3 iterations in one afternoon for <$2.00 of plastic.
If you've studied other fields, you might know how radical a transformation reduced cycle times alone can make.
Given I just became a Google Shopping Express member and I am already addicted to Amazon Prime, I anticipate my desire to make my own 3D items at home to also decline over time.
I do agree with @JDDunn9. There will be businesses that will provide 3D printing services using state of the art printers, high quality materials, and their expertise. Bay Photo is a 2D example of this kind of service. They will deliver the results quickly, cheaply, and reliably using distribution services like Prime and Express.
Here's a working turbine compressor model that I built http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjU-1aS_mHQ
Here's one of the more practical things that I made: http://www.heroicrobotics.com/img/pixelpusher_case.jpg (We used another "consumer grade" 3d printer for the first 60 units; it's about time to switch to injection molding)
I am interested in them and I love reading about stuff people are doing with them and I see that they're an important innovation. But I'm happy for other people to be doing that stuff.
I have seen some 3d printed stuff that I wanted to buy. Someone made some ceramic mugs, and the first iteration was cool and clunky and not neat shaped. There are some cool puzzles and math toys too.
Anyway, it's been working nice so far, though I did spend many hours tuning the machine and getting to know the various software (CAD, slicers, printer control). I'm currently in the process of installing another extruder, the primary reason being the ability to print water-soluble support material (PVA) - this makes it possible to print essentially any form, with no limitation on overhang angle.
I think the thing that needs most work in the open source 3D printer works is the development of slicing software and printer firmware. In particular, there is little consideration to how the layers interact with each physically. Currently slicers mostly work in a simple and predictable manner - but with more "intelligent" algorithms modelling the physical processes of a printer the print quality and/or speed could be improved without modifying the printer itself (except perhaps getting faster microcontrollers).
P.S. I'll be very careful buying cheap Chinese filament next time. It tends to have oil inside which makes it almost impossible to stick to any kind of surface, and requires bed cleaning after every print.
For example, fan control could be made volumetric, based around how much filament is below the extrusion, not just the whole layer time. The bridge detection in Slic3r is a very restricted form of this - done more generally, fan speed would be increased for bridges, overhangs and non-first layers of bridges.
Another example, the physics of the extruder operation could be taken into account, to prevent fat corners and similar. I know some firmware can do this already, but I've never found it sufficient. I know it is somehow unclear whether this goes into the firmware of the g-code - but if it goes in the g-code, that means it should work with all firmwares. I think that ideally you could program anything you want in g-code, without the need to change firmware.
Bridge sagging could be accounted for in some way. I've seem cases where you have very sparse infill, and the first filled layer after that is very sagged - up to 3 top layer may be needed to get the top straight.
Finally, slicers are generally buggy (just check the Slic3r issue tracker!). I may sometime get a bit more involved with slicer development, but it's a whole new area, and lots of existing code that needs to be understood until I can make proper improvements.
Enamored as a child by Lego, I broke all early problems down to things that could be solved/built with Lego. In order to build 'real stuff', I knew I needed to learn to weld aluminum and mill things. I read about million dollar 3/5/X-axis CNC machines in the early 90s and tried numerous times to build something 'good enough'.
Many failed CNC projects later, I found RepRap and it's filled a particular need. One that doesn't fill the garage/loft/apartment with a faint taste of aluminum in the air.
It is hard right now (for me) to justify the cost - just like I assume it was hard for my parents to justify the cost of an Apple ][+. But I am very glad they bought that luxury geek gadget when I was a kid, because it helped shape who I am today.
I don't know if 3D printing will be analogous to an Apple ][+ in terms of impact for my kids - probably not. But it can be hard to see if it will, when it is in its infancy. I wonder if I would have been fascinated with computers if I was a kid now, because they are so polished in so many ways. The Apple ][ (and our subsequent 286) were so... rough... and accessible, that it was all the more intriguing for a young curious tinkerer.
I think there is no doubt that the current hobby 3D printers are rough, and a bit unpolished (in a good way). (That may change some with Formlabs Form1, though... it looks pretty polished and slick).
And then one day everyone has one, and you can buy them at your local appliance store.
Every time I hear more about this domain (typically from folks like iamwil at CubeHero) I become more excited by the possibilities. It's a enabling technology, so looking for a "killer application" is probably the wrong way to think about it: the impact is likely to be more fundamental and spread across a variety of small use cases for a long time until it's ingrained in our culture. I still remember walking into a VC's offices and seeing a row of neatly-printed 3D 4-polytopes sitting along the counter to welcome entrants.
Sadly, it's the one piece of equipment where I can't think of even a tangential application in crowd labor, so there's not one here at the office yet. I expect this'll be as ubiquitous as a 2D printer in offices within a few years, though.
As for crowd labor market, there might be an application. 3D printers are slow compared to other types of manufacturing, and thus, to get any volume to sell, one needs to operate a printer farm, or try to do distributed 3D printing.
When people do operate printer farms, where they have racks of printers to print out parts that they sell. However, the current crop of 3D printers still requires manual labor in the beginning and the end of the print. There's no mechanism yet to automatically remove the piece and start a new job. This may be where labor can come in.
As for distributed printing, I do know of a guy that's trying this out as an experiment, since he doesn't have the capacity to print every piece he's selling, he pays others to help him print, and then it's shipped to him. So that is a possibility as well.
That said, I plan to build one for myself at some point. A fellow Splat'er has offered me his partially assembled Reprap, but I don't have time to work on it right now. :-(
Arguably, a single factory in China will print the screws and make whatever larger device. The point is, simplifying the supply chain.
All common 3d printer issues, though some are exacerbated because I bought a cheap kit from an unknown supplier. I got to a point where every time I fixed I problem I'd notice two other ones, and put it down and haven't picked it back up.
Good advice for people getting 3d printers is to decide if you want a printer as a tool for design/prototyping, or 3d printing as a hobby. I told myself I wanted the second as a path to the first, but after many hours of printer building I concluded that I really just wanted the first.
I'm not sure whether 3-d printing will result in my having more stuff or less. In the long run, I could see it working out either way, but with the technology in its current state, it would definitely result in a net increase in the amount of stuff I have.
If 3-d printers eventually reach the stage where I can print an item only when I need it, and then I can recycle it into something else, that would be worth owning. Looking around my kitchen, I see a lot of things that I don't use every week, but I use enough (and are useful enough) that they're worth keeping around: a gravy separator, multiple salad bowls, a ladle, a colander, steamer baskets, multiple slotted spoons, multiple potholders, storage containers, various sizes of bakeware, enough placesettings to have guests, etc. I can imagine 3-d printers eventually getting to the point where there's no reason to keep drawers and cabinets full of this stuff. But with today's technology, if you're printing something that you need to use today a month from now, you're generally better off throwing the one you have on a shelf for a month than printing a new one the next time you need it. When that changes, I'll be more interested.
Note that 3D printing is a huge, huge industry. Due to how it will allow companies to print or buy parts for their machinery at a fraction of the current costs.
I have built three 3D printers so far and a CNC. I like the CNC best and am designing my second. I use shapeways over using any of the 3D printers I have to hand, if the purpose is to build a working part (or the CNC).
Delivery date is set to next Nov., so we'll see what this can do!
I definitely see the value, but it will certainly take another five years before I'd be ready to actually buy one.
Now it sits in the corner of my shop gathering dust - it works well, but I found that what I really wanted out of it was the experience of designing and building my own.
- At a research lab. They had a massive Stratasys which cost around $30,000. They used it all the time for experiment setups; they had a whole workshop with CNC mills, lathes, etc. and the 3D printer was one machine among the others. It was used as much as the others, no less, no more.
- At a hardware startup. We never bought a 3D printer, but we used on-demand 3D printing services (Shapeways, Ponoko, Sculpteo, etc). This allowed us to iterate rather quickly on design matters - we were doing consumer electronics.
For my personal use I don't think I'll buy a 3D printer within the next 5 years.
I am interested in 3D printers but I'm not sure what I would be using it for!
Still, even if I had the money I wouldn't buy one, but I am planning to make one eventually. If only to teach myself about the mechanics and electronics involved.
Also, building a 3d-printer gives you the skills to maintain one, where you ever to use one and unforeseen things happen.
The egg cup manufacturing cost using the FDM was only £7 for the material.
I'm a lot more bullish about technologies that print metal such as NASA Langely's EBF3 (http://www.nasa.gov/topics/technology/features/ebf3.html) than soft, anisotropic polymers.
The most interesting things are either made of silicon/metal (computer chips) or organic matter (food, people) and neither are printable.
My sub-poll question would be: for those who do have a 3D printer, do you create your own content or print only third-party STLs?
In my opinion, current generation 3d printers have to be looked at as tools, not a holy saviour of manufacturing industry. It has it's strong points (fast turnaround times, low price) and has it's weaknesses (subpar resolution, support material is required for many types of parts, being finicky).
Nonetheless, I'm really happy with mine- I built a RepRap around 2 years ago. It took full 1 year to get from starting to read about it, to first prints good enough to be useful. After building, it gathered dust for some time because I didn't know what to do with it- the process of building was more interesting than process of using it :>
That being said, I'm also experimenting with DIY SLA printers- by using UV laser and rotating mirror assembly (found in 2d laser printers). Don't know if it works yet- I'm finishing up electronics/firmware and trying to come up with mechanical design.
In recent months I started using openSCAD and now almost exclusively print things I generate with it. I still check Thingiverse to see if people have already created things I'm attempting to make, which I see as the real power of this whole experiment.
There are clearly growth opportunities, both on the hardware and software sides of things, and in their intersection.
I have access to printers via our hackerspaces (shameless plug: Heatsync labs, Mesa AZ), but have only printed 1 thing that I can think of that was useful.
It was a bushing to mate two pieces of steel together. The other things I've printed have either been novelty (hey, I can print a pendant!) or have fallen apart.
This is a pretty niche hobby - I suspect it's a tiny proportion of the 3D printing market - but it's an example of a case where it would be very useful.
I'm glad I got it. For me it's not much more than a toy but because of it I've gotten a much greater understanding of the 3d printer phenomenon, what it can do and can't do, etc.
I have no experience with 3D modeling or home manufacturing, so the learning curve is another reason I'm holding off for now.
They're pretty useful, printing spare parts for our space suits and rovers when we test them in the field where it would take days to get replacement parts.
(Think my RepRap just needs a quiet weekend, and for me to get over my aversion to crimping...)
It's a cool toy but it has not been a useful tool for me. The Stratsys uPrint at my hackerspace is my go to if I need to actually make something.
I'd really like to get into ceramics (that Unfold project is a mind blow) and do a custom bong start-up.
<sadface>I also have too many projects and too little time, so it doesn't get the attention it deserves. </sadface>.
Never say never. ;)
OH YOU MEAN 3D not 3RD
Honestly, I'm still wondering what types of metals 3d printer can handle.
I'm printing out my final project for a rapid prototyping class as I type this out! :D
More than a tool, 3D printing is really a big hobby for me. It's not just about getting 3D objects printed, it's also about how the prints go, how the quality varies given the slicing/printing parameters, and how to push everything further with the community.