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Consumers Not Impressed With 3D Printing 302

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the drip-coffee-and-widget-maker dept.
Lucas123 (935744) writes "Putting a 3D printer beside the coffee maker in every home, as some manufacturers hope will happen someday, is a long ways from reality as consumers today still don't understand how the technology will benefit them, according to a new study. The study, by Juniper Research, states that part of the problem is that killer applications with the appropriate eco-system of software, apps and materials have yet to be identified and communicated to potential users. And, even though HP has announced its intention to enter the 3D printing space (possibly this fall) a massive, mainstream corporation isn't likely to change the market."
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Consumers Not Impressed With 3D Printing

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  • wrong target (Score:5, Interesting)

    by slashmydots (2189826) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:20PM (#46835049)
    My friend's company just got a multi-million dollar 19-axis robot for carving custom wood. They're the only ones in America with one that does specifically what they do. It has already paid for itself in 3 years. If they didn't work with wood and did prototypes or CNC or something more 3d printer friendly, dropping a few thousand on a top of the line 3D printer would be no problem. A shipment of materials costs more than that. The staff hours carving custom parts out of plastic alone would pay for it. So I'd say they need to target businesses first, use the funds to make the technology much better, THEN go cheap and target the residential customers with even lower priced machines.
  • Re:Premature much (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ArcadeNut (85398) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:21PM (#46835059) Homepage

    I agree with most of what you say. I also own a 3D printer (Solidoodle 3)

    I see two main things that are keeping 3d printing from really taking off in the home. Once they solve these two issues it should really take off. There are other minor issues that need to be addressed as well, but the two issues that need to be fixed are : Speed and Reliability. I've designed up a product that I would like to print, but it takes 1.5 hours to print, and that is if it makes it fully through the print. Issues with warping, clogging, overheating, etc... are the main concerns about reliability.

    I would be happy if they could cut my print time in half, but it's the current limitation of the technology being used in the home market. Some other technology is going to have to be used in order to overcome both issues, but those technologies are currently out of the budget for home users.

    Unlike the post above, I do think it will happen in my lifetime though.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:37PM (#46835185)

    In more than one way it will be the killer application, for not only will it be the application that makes everyone want one but also the application that will send a very, very powerful enemy onto 3D Printing: Printing car replacement parts.

    Think of all those small and not so small little bits of plastic that you have to pay for through the nose when (or should I say, as soon as) they crack. On your car, your motorcycle, your various other appliances. But with car manufacturers this will not be very popular, as one can imagine. They make quite a bit of money with spare parts and the planned obsolescence of various parts that "just so happen" to wear and tear.

    Now, with patents it's fairly easy to keep other manufacturer from ruining this very profitable market. It's way harder if every Joe Random can make their own parts, essentially for free.

    If you thought the battle of content owners vs. file sharing was fierce, just think what the battle between car part manufacturers vs. part printers will be.

  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:38PM (#46835201) Homepage

    The problem with most low-end extruder-type printers is that the engineering sucks. Most 3D printers work by trying to push a string with a gear (which jams or fails to feed), trying to weld a hot thing to a cold thing (which produces weak welds), trying to perform a process that is very temperature-sensitive without air temperature control (which makes the process fail frequently), and trying to weld a plastic that has too high a coefficient of expansion (which causes cracks during cooling).

    Some of them then follow up by building a 3-axis motion system out of thin wood (too flexible), and using screw threads and nuts (too much play and backlash) instead of Acme lead screws and recirculating-ball nuts (like real CNC tools.) The end result is miserable process repeatability. This is why a big fraction of hobbyist-level 3D print jobs fail.

    HP can probably solve those problems. Many of them are similar to the problems inkjet printers and pen plotters face. HP made both of those technologies work well. It wasn't easy. As one engineer pointed out, intuition fails you when trying to understand what's going on with ink at microdroplet size. HP had to use supercomputers to simulate the fluid dynamics before they got a print head that worked really well. (Of course, most of the engineers who did that were laid off years ago.) Many of the problems with 3D printers are cheaply solveable if you're making hundreds of thousands of them, not hundreds.

  • by Skynyrd (25155) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @04:00PM (#46835405) Homepage

    For just under $2,500 you can buy a MB Replicator 2 or a Type A Series 1; both are decent quality, consumer ready 3D printers.

    Both of them excel at slowly making 25 cent plastic parts in a number of hours for about a dime. There is no legit use for the consumer yet. It's still "look mom, I can print plastic spider I just downloaded from Thingiverse!"

    Sure, there's designers, engineers and artists that use them. But for the average guy at home? No way.

  • Re:Premature much (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ArcadeNut (85398) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @05:25PM (#46836069) Homepage

    Well, for me it's Arcade parts. There are a lot of obsolete and hard to find/expensive parts. There are also a lot of custom parts I have designed to use in Arcade games.

    One example of something I did use it for was when I was building the rack to hold the spools of material for the printer. I printed the mounts for the PVC pipe and I printed the Wall Anchors used to secure it in sheet rock. I printed the wall anchors because I was assembling it and didn't have any and all the stores were closed. So I figured, what the hell, I can just make them. I'll probably use it to build some custom tools and other things that would come in handy around the house.

    Honestly, for the average person, a 3D printer probably wouldn't be used that much right now. I do think that once the speed and reliability are addressed, and the price comes down, more people will find new and unique uses for a 3D printer.

  • Re:Premature much (Score:3, Interesting)

    by plover (150551) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @05:44PM (#46836205) Homepage Journal

    What I don't get is... what would you even print? If I think about the things that I interact with on a daily basis that could be 3D printed with what I know about today's technology, I come up with a pretty small list...

    My list is really close to zero, too, which is why I haven't bothered getting one. My friend has a veritable rainbow of little ABS geckos littering his desk. He's printed a few useful things, but for the most part he's only printed decorative items (and that's taking a few liberties with the word "decorate".) I don't need little plastic tchotchkes to make my day complete.

    Where I think it may eventually shine is instant repair parts: a new door for the DVD-RW drive, a new button for the mouse, etc. But I don't want to own a $1000 printer to produce a replacement printed from $0.10 worth of plastic. I'd rather go to the local Office $(VAR), look up the part in a catalog, and ask them to print me the part for a dollar or two.

  • Material? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by readin (838620) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @05:50PM (#46836257)
    One thing I haven't understood yet from what limited reading I've done on 3D printers (I think I'm a pretty typical consumer in that I have not gone out of my way to learn about them) is what material the printed objects are made of. Can I print a decorative button for my coat? If I can, will it have as much strength as the button I'm replacing? Can I have it printed the same color?

    Can I print a coffee mug that I can use? That might be cool - I could put whatever engraving I want on it. But again I'm not sure what material I'm dealing with. Is it waterproof? Is it strong? Is it toxic?

    Would I be able to use printed objects as hardware? Are they strong enough to act as screws or screwdrivers?

    It might be good for kids. I could replace those missing pieces from various board games. Could I print out new D&D dice?

    So far my impression is that you get one material - some sort of resin, and you get one color. I don't think I have that many needs for things made of plastic resin.
  • Re:Premature much (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kbg (241421) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @07:51PM (#46837265)

    No I am sure they will succeed. I mean they managed to add hidden markings that are printed in almost all paper printers to track you and with some scanners you can't copy images of money.

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