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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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  • Premature much (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:10PM (#46834931)

    Whining about lack of software as a roadblock to mass adoption of home 3D printing is absurd at this point in time.

    Inexpensive 3D printing is still barely more than a toy for hobbyists. I have one (mendlemax 2), and while I love playing with it, I recognize it for what it is.

    The path forward as I see it for home 3D printing is:

    - spend a long damn time in the hobbyist domain
    - eventually capabilities will hit a point where actual useful products can be produced, but it will still be way more effort to do so than to buy the equivilant mass-produced item.
    - small niche markets will open up offering custom things and replacement parts that are no long available. I forsee a long period of time where 3D printing is practical, but at a small business level rather than a home level. The "bring your model down to staples" phase if you will.
    - eventually some people will start using these services regularily and start dreaming of having one at home
    - this is when 3D printing at home really takes off

    This is however so far away that I may not be alive to see it. When the time comes, I'm sure someone will whip up a slick UI...

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

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:14PM (#46834983)

      But I'm sure scumbag companies will ruin this otherwise good idea by somehow requiring the printers to have DRM or random restrictions.

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

        by mysidia (191772) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @10:43PM (#46838157)

        But I'm sure scumbag companies will ruin this otherwise good idea by somehow requiring the printers to have DRM

        It's going to be the government passing regulations that 3D printers available to consumers have tamper-proof measures to prevent consumers from easily having direct control over them, AND...

        requiring that only digitally signed 3D part designs can be printed --- which will have been through a regulated approval process, to ensure that the parts can't be used to construct a weapon such as "Liberator" 3d printed gun, or other dangerous or concealable weapons

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

      by Shakrai (717556) * on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:17PM (#46835009) Journal

      The path forward as I see it for home 3D printing is:

      You forgot the part where people find a way to use it for sexual gratification. New technology meets yesterday's primal urges. Same story, different day.

    • 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 Anrego (830717) *

        I would add gravity to the list.

        Thinking about the "printability" of something has to go. Temporary dissolving materials offer a promising solution to this problem, but at the moment they are expensive, slow, and messy.

        I think we'll see them become a hobbyist and do-it-yourself-er fixture in my lifetime, but as ubiquitous as microwaves or a major retail game changer, I'm a little more skeptical there.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        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...

        • 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: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by plover (150551)

          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

          • 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.

            The material won't (or at least is unlikely to) have the same characteristics, and the qualities of the material and the form of the object are closely linked.

            Many things clip or snap together. Too soft and it won't stay in place. Too hard and it wont go together at all. Too brittle and it just breaks. Other things are held by screws. Can 3D printers produce holes with thread

      • Re:Premature much (Score:4, Insightful)

        by LinuxIsGarbage (1658307) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @06:23PM (#46836535)

        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.

        I'm somewhat reminded of early '90s CD-R burning. Rigs like this: http://www.cbronline.com/news/... [cbronline.com] were $32500 1991 dollars ($55,000 2014 dollars) if you breathed on them you would lose your $100+ CD-R. Mid '90s saw $1000 CD-R drives. Come the late 1990s CD-RW drives were $300 with buffers, but still the occasional buffer-underrun. Now a DVD burner is $20 and comes with BURN-Proof underrun tech.

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

        by mi (197448) <slashdot-2012@virtual-estates.net> on Thursday April 24, 2014 @07:15PM (#46837019) Homepage

        I dunno. Speed would not be high on my list of priorities. My dishwasher takes over 2 hours to wash the load, and that's acceptable. The reliability — which you mention second — is much more important in my opinion.

        And then comes the standardization of the data-files and of the raw materials.

        I would not mind paying a designer of a printable widget for his work — so a DRM of some kind would be alright, even if irritating. Because I'd still be able to have the piece in a couple of hours after buying it, instead of waiting at least a day for the (expensive) overnight shipping.

    • Or wait until Apple figures it out and once again eats everyone's lunch.
    • Re:Premature much (Score:5, Insightful)

      by aix tom (902140) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:42PM (#46835223)

      On the other hand, 15 years ago about ~90% of my friends who had computers had printers at home to print their photos, these days none of them has (including me).

      Take your memory stick to the local supermarket or photo shop to get high-quality prints from a working, regularly serviced photo printing machine is cheaper and the quality is better. The same way I print Photos maybe 5-10 times a year at most, I can't imagine I would need/want to 3D print something that often that having my own 3D printer would make sense.

    • Kinko's (Score:5, Insightful)

      by goombah99 (560566) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:43PM (#46835231)

      When I can pick up a dishwasher replacement part printed out by Whirlpool at my local kinko's and it costs less and is just as good as a cast one then 3D printing will have arrived. Till then it's for hobbyists and specialist.

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

      by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:43PM (#46835233) Journal

      3D printing is a prototyping tool, not a serious production tool.

      It's flying cars all over again, man.

      • by unrtst (777550)

        3D printing is a prototyping tool, not a serious production tool.

        THIS!!!

        Sure, there are are nitch places for 3d printing (hard to find replacement parts, artistic stuff (even one off custom jewelery), etc). However, as soon as there is a 3d model good enough to print, if enough people want it, it'll be cheaper for mass production. And all the other little trinkets... your local 3d print shop (which will probably go the way of photo printers, so any CVS, Kinko's, Staples, etc).

        There's a reason some parts are hard to find - there's little demand. So one shop that can do it

    • Re:Premature much (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Darinbob (1142669) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:56PM (#46835365)

      The current "hobbyist" 3D printers are utter crap and they help you create things that are utter crap. Basically they squeeze hot plastic out like toothpaste into strange shapes, so the finished product ends up being fragile and bumpy. However a professional grade 3D printer can create some really nice stuff (with a very different technique) but the price range is nowhere close to be in the home.

      In a way this is like the early computer days. Useful machines were in universities, corporations, and labs, but in homes a few hobbyists were getting excited about expensive 8 bit toys that didn't do much of anything useful except to play with it and start to learn stuff.

      • by kyrsjo (2420192)

        Exactly. My officemate works with 3D-printed metal parts (waveguides and RF loads), and some of the pieces on her desk are pretty nice. I've also seen RF cavities partially fabricated using 3D printing (and partially by turning).

        In many cases, part of the reason for using 3D printing is that you can easily create shapes which are hard to make using traditional manufacturing techniques. This especially means shapes with complex voids.

  • by CastrTroy (595695) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:12PM (#46834951) Homepage
    It's the same deal with photo printers. It's much easier and cheaper to go down to Walmart or Costco when you need to print out your photos and get them to use their professional quality machines to do the job. I think that 3D printers will end up in the same sport. You'll go down to Walmart, and get them to print out an item for you. You'll only need it maybe 5 times a year, so there's no point in owning your own 3D printer. There's already services where you can send a 3D file and somebody will print it out and ship it to you.
    • With 3D printers it is a bit more extreme...
      How often do we really get stuff, Like from molded plastic?
      If I had a 3d printer, I may print out some jig every few months... however for the most part it will sit there and be unused.

      • by cdrudge (68377)

        How often do we really get stuff, Like from molded plastic?

        Seriously? I think the easier question is how often to we get stuff that isn't from molded plastic.

        • Right. But apart from some kitchen stuff and toys, they tend to contain electronics, or at least metal parts.

    • It's the same deal with photo printers. It's much easier and cheaper to go down to Walmart or Costco when you need to print out your photos and get them to use their professional quality machines to do the job. I think that 3D printers will end up in the same sport. You'll go down to Walmart, and get them to print out an item for you. You'll only need it maybe 5 times a year, so there's no point in owning your own 3D printer. There's already services where you can send a 3D file and somebody will print it out and ship it to you.

      I think this is accurate. I'm not ready to buy a 3D printer but I'd drive over to The UPS Store and have them print something out.

      • It's the same deal with photo printers. It's much easier and cheaper to go down to Walmart or Costco when you need to print out your photos and get them to use their professional quality machines to do the job. I think that 3D printers will end up in the same sport. You'll go down to Walmart, and get them to print out an item for you. You'll only need it maybe 5 times a year, so there's no point in owning your own 3D printer. There's already services where you can send a 3D file and somebody will print it out and ship it to you.

        I think this is accurate. I'm not ready to buy a 3D printer but I'd drive over to The UPS Store and have them print something out.

        See, that's exactly why I'd like to acquire one - there's money to be made printing stuff for other people.

        I wanna be the guy making that money.

        • by CRCulver (715279)

          See, that's exactly why I'd like to acquire one - there's money to be made printing stuff for other people. I wanna be the guy making that money.

          Do you think you stand a change against established commercial locations like copy shops, which have already secured real estate in prime locations and built up a customer base? When digital photo printing became a thing, you started to see digital photo printers in drugstores and pre-existing photo stores, not new, specialized shops just for that.

      • I'd rather have UPS deliver a properly moulded item. Better finish and stronger.

    • by RJFerret (1279530)

      People order sex toys instead of going to retail stores. They prefer discrete packaging. Porn consumption took off when you didn't need to go out to an adult video store but could order at home. Digital cameras offered private erotic photos without taking them out to be developed.

      I really doubt many people will want to collect their phallic shaped object from a pimply faced kid at a department store any more than they currently do free from libraries' 3D printers.

      This summary just leads to an article tha

  • Perhaps (Score:5, Funny)

    by Highland Deck Box (2786087) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:16PM (#46835001)
    if they could create a 2D printer that wasn't a crotchety piece of shit, then people would be more excited. I don't look forward to trying to unjam some 3D printer nozzles full of melted plastic.
    • Re:Perhaps (Score:5, Informative)

      by Shakrai (717556) * on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:20PM (#46835053) Journal

      if they could create a 2D printer that wasn't a crotchety piece of shit

      There are dozens of different quality printers on the market today. They just cost more than the $30 people are willing to pay for an inkjet printer from Wally World.

      • Well, to be fair, if 3D printers were anything like 2D printers you'd get them for 30 bucks but the filament would cost about 100 bucks a yard and you could only put the manufacturer made one in.

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        Even good ones tend to be crap if they're turned on only once a year, and the rest of the year it accumulates dust and the ink solidifies on the head.

    • Re:Perhaps (Score:5, Informative)

      by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:27PM (#46835097) Homepage

      if they could create a 2D printer that wasn't a crotchety piece of shit, then people would be more excited.

      My Brother laser printers are anything but crotchety pieces of shit.

      Maybe you're just buying crappy printers?

      • Well there are certainly problems with normal printers, of the 2D variety. Essentially, most of them are crotchety pieces of shit. People don't want to spend very much, so manufacturers have often focused on producing cheap models, and those cheap models are often not well designed. Even the well-designed kind tend to need some maintenance now and then.

        As a general product, printers are stagnant and awful. Maybe it's because people are sending around PDFs instead of printing things out? Either way, th

      • by danbert8 (1024253)

        Really? My Brother printer is a pain in the ass. When it works over the network it still has stupid moments like no printing in greyscale because the yellow ink is "empty". I have yet to find a non-enterprise printer that I didn't hate.

    • by mlts (1038732)

      It depends. I have an old HP color laser that is still on its starter set of toner that I bought about a decade ago on closeout, and it still works for the occasional photograph. I've seen old HP Laserjet 4 models still continue to keep going for almost 20 years. If it has Postscript, a distinct driver isn't really needed.

      Now, inkjet printers are a different story. For a while, one could buy an ink cartridge and get a low-end printer "free" with it. I expect little from a printer that costs well south

  • Apt quote (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SteveFoerster (136027) <steve@stevefoers[ ].com ['ter' in gap]> on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:19PM (#46835033) Homepage

    “If I'd asked my customers what they wanted, they'd have said a faster horse.” – Henry Ford

  • by sootman (158191) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:20PM (#46835041) Homepage Journal

    Most people weren't impressed with the first home computers, either, and couldn't see a need for one. It'll take time, better and cheaper technology, and more known use cases. Look how long it took us to get from the AT and XT and Apple II and "you can use it for recipes and Oregon Trail!" to the iPad, Facebook, and Skype.

    As soon as people learn that they can print a new battery cover for a remote control, or replace a small broken part of a kid's favorite toy, or some amazing thing no one has yet thought of, they'll start picking up. Personally, I can't wait. (I mean, I can wait, and I am waiting, but I'm really looking forward to having one and I already have a bunch of things in mind for when I get one. Just waiting for them to be a bit cheaper.)

    The same way you download and print random cute, funny, or pretty pictures, imagine being able to download and print random neat stuff like this. [imgur.com] (Sample I saw from a Makerbot in a Microsoft store.)

    • Re:Well DUH (Score:5, Insightful)

      by queazocotal (915608) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:55PM (#46835345)

      'As soon as people learn that they can print a new battery cover for a remote control, or replace a small broken part of a kid's favorite toy, or some amazing thing no one has yet thought of, they'll start picking up.'

      But they can't.
      Unless that was your point.
      Take your average consumer, and give them a 3d modelling package.
      Ask them to make a battery cover.
      It needs to fit precisely in the hole - often to +-0.2mm tolerances or it won't slide in right.
      It needs to have a properly designed 'spring' or it's going to fall off again.
      They don't have an accurate metrology thing that would let them measure the size of the hole.
      They are at best inexperienced when trying to run 3d modelling software, much of which is at best challenging to use.

      It's going to take most people quite a while before they can actually print something that fits.

      This may well be too high a barrier to entry.

      Printing things from thingiverse et al is another matter.

      At the moment, a 'Customers not impressed with CNC lathes' story would make almost as much sense.

      • by Bardez (915334)
        Coupled with a 3D scanner, it would. Imagine your kid throws your remote. The plastic nub on it breaks off, and it is no longer a functional cover, but you have the cover and it's plastic peg nub, just separated. You put them into a scanner, it scans the dimensions. You open up some 3D modelling software to put the two pieces back together, then click print. You now have your replacement part.
  • Custom lego parts! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Servaas (1050156)

    Take my money now!

    • by mark-t (151149)
      Precision of 3d printing technology will have to improve by more than an order of magnitude before it will be able to actually do lego parts that fit well with existing lego.
  • 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.
    • 1. WTF is a 19 axis machine? I think you might be off by a dozen or so. Never heard of more than 7, and never saw anyone actually use it. Give me a link, if you got one.

      2. The multi-million dollar machine can repeat a cut probably within .000001 of a inch. 3d printers are current at about .01 (maybe .001). There is just a massive difference in the quality of the materials and the overall machine. So right now the only people that can truly use the current tech are those without tight tolerances, wh
    • by Skynyrd (25155)

      They just got one, but they've had it 3 years?
      A top of the line 3D printer for "a few thousand"?

      You have too many axis in you 19 axis magical wood carver, and not enough zeros on the end of the price of the printer. Neither of the objects you speak of actually exist.

  • by WrongMonkey (1027334) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:20PM (#46835051)
    3-D is ok for a one-off prototype. But who needs a $1000 device that takes hours to print a happy meal toy?
    • That's just it. It's a niche tool for certain industries, specially design and engineering firms, who spend a day doing the CAD specs and can let something print over night to see if the latest revision of a design will work in a prototype. For those industries it's a godsend. I can see some garage inventor wanting one to tinker around with. For those purposes it's exactly the right tool for the job.

      But for stuff that I often need around the house, it's easier and quicker to run up to the store for me t

  • by smooth wombat (796938) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:21PM (#46835057) Homepage Journal
    Raj and Howard in front of a 3d printer:

    Raj: Ooh. I, I think it's done.

    (Opens door to printer)

    Raj: It worked! We printed a whistle.

    Howard: Amazing. You realize these things go for 25 cents a pop at a party store.

    Raj: And we made it in only three hours!
  • I think that the problem is that most people are using 3D printers now are engineers making prototype parts for machinery, which doesn't interest the mainstream.

    Now, if you post a bunch of 3D printer template files for sex toys... now you'll get the mainstream's attention!

    Wow... I almost see the great unwashed masses heading to Target now for "That there plastic dildo maker" Janet told me about :)

  • by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:24PM (#46835085)

    Right now we have a consumer culture that doesn't really teach people to make and repair their own things (which is what a 3D printing would mostly be useful for). So while a 3D printer might someday be useful for a mechanic who needs to make car parts or a shoe salesmen who needs to make a custom shoe, most people are still expecting to go to someone else to get those things. As the technology improves and can make more things (metal parts, rubber, glass, composites) and people get more used to it, we may see the market for the technology grow, assuming it isn't outlawed first.

  • Que the "Oh NOES! You can use them to make teh undetectable gunz!! The story at 10:00" local news teasers.
  • by scorp1us (235526) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:28PM (#46835105) Journal

    If you had a scanner and printer combined and could just hit a "replicate" button, you'd be on to something.

    if you had a way to take the scan data and use that, then you'e really have something. Because then I can make cases for things by putting the thing in and doing a simple subtraction fro an extrusion and I'd get a mating surface. It would provide a pragmatic way to obtain dimensions, rather than busting out rulers and using trial and error.

  • First. During my day job I frequently work with a professional 3d printer. As a hobby I own a Reprap (hobby 3d printer). I would describe myself as a 3d print enthousiast. However I do not see 3d printers live up to the hype. the mantra: "Everyone will print everything in 3d from toys to funriture and a 3d steak". My argument is new technology does not replace everything else there was before. People still walk/ride bikes/take a car/boat/train because planes and helicopters excist (who would have thought)!
  • 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.

    • Essentially for free, like how printing this 300 page textbook is essentially free. $8 for good Double-A 22 pound copy paper (not HP 20 pound poorly cut crap that jams your printer), 15 cents/page for ink. Only about $53.

      This is, of course, why I own a color laser printer that can print for 2 cents/page or less. Plastic filament, however, is expensive.

      • We're still a far cry from the prices asked for car spare parts. Parts that cost cents in plastic are sold for double digit dollars.

        Yes, filament costs money and the power to heat and print it even more. But even everything included we're still far from the prices you have to pay for spare parts.

  • 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.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      recirculating-ball nuts

      Hey! This is a family website.

  • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:40PM (#46835209) Homepage

    I think if you want to sell them to people, you may need a useful consumer application first. I don't mean "application" like a software program. I mean a use-case.

    Really, right now, 3D printing has been developed and marketed for hobbyists, even if the marketing people didn't know that's what they were doing. They've said, "Make your own designs and share them with others!" Admittedly, that's great stuff, but most people don't want to design their own products. They want their products to be designed by someone who knows what they're doing.

    So if... Let's say Amazon released a 3D printer, along with an extensive library of real, useful products that could be printed out-of-the-box, without any difficult setup or calibration, then you might have a product. It would have to be something like, "I unpacked it from the box and plugged it in. And then the next day, I was shopping on Amazon, and along with the option to 'buy' the doodad I wanted for $11, there was an option to 'print' for free! I even got to select my color." That there is a workable business model. Sell the printers, sell the printing material, as well as selling the same products via mail-order for those who don't own a printer.

    Of course, there's an obvious objection that occurs to me: Someone might say, "But can you really make a whole Amazon store of objects that can also be printed? Sure, I can print out some crappy little plastic toy, but nobody is going to bother to buy that same thing online!" Well there's your problem right there. If you can't come up with a large selection of real products that can be printed with these things, products which people would otherwise buy from retail/online stores, then the printer is not a consumer product. It's a more of a toy, or a machine that hobbyists can use to produce things, or businesses can use for prototyping or other purposes.

  • When the technology reaches the point where you can use a 3D printer to decorate a cake or make fancy chocolates by the dozen (hopefully, make both and other things besides) in a matter of minutes then a 3D printer will find space next to the coffee maker. At least in the sort of home where a gourmet kitchen would see daily use.
  • That said, the maker community is not exactly small, and I think it's entirely reasonable for a device like this to be content with targeting that particular market, but in the end the maker community is still going to represent a fairly small fraction of the total number of appliance users out there. Trying to measure the appeal of a device that tends to appeal only to one relatvely tiny community by looking at the general population is not going to be indicative of how desirable that thing is for peop

  • Its a cool toy but its only that.
    I think the reason 3D printing hasn't become more ubiquitous is that there really is no need to print much in the average home. I'm having a hard time trying to imagine what the average person would need to print often enough to justify buying a 3D printer for.

    Even as a geek I'm having a hard time coming up with more than a couple of things I would ever like to print myself, especially given the resolution of hot plastic deposition technology still isn't upto printing very f

  • by Fulminata (999320) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @04:00PM (#46835403)
    That would have been the headline in the 70s. This is why consumers don't generally drive innovation, and why judging the prospects of a new technology before its had time to overcome some of its early weaknesses is premature.
  • 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.

  • And, even though HP has announced its intention to enter the 3D printing space (possibly this fall)..

    HP doesn't count anymore. From what I hear, they're more or less gutting themselves of any real technical talent in favor of offshoring and overseas outsourcing, outright firing long-time domestic engineers and workers just to improve their bottom line in the short term. Don't expect any innovation or high quality from a company that's hiring nobodies just barely out of school at best who can't find their ass with both hands.

  • I believe that 3D printing will eventually be ubiquitous. However, we're talking about something that's at least a decade or two off because not only does the technology need to mature but a whole infrastructure needs to arise to support it. Certainly, these machines will need to evolve beyond spitting out relatively rough hunks of plastic. The suggestion that the lack of a "killer app" is a major stumbling block to adoption is almost comical.

    The article seems written by someone who lacks fundamental unders

  • What a home printer can print out the latest fashions, then it will take off. Like a designer's new suit? Pay the designer directly, download, print and now you've got the latest fashion. If I can print the suit for what it costs me to go to a tailor, or a little more, this is a viable model for home adoption, and you'll see the fashion conscious adopt it early, and fairly quick trickle down to the rest of the population.

  • by RobinH (124750) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @04:24PM (#46835615) Homepage
    Anyone who has used a 3D printer (I have a RepRap style one) knows that the killer app is rapid prototyping. Lots of people already use 3D printers to print out prototypes of parts to test them out or focus group them before sending them to production. You pretty much *have* to be a designer to be able to make use of a 3D printer right now, and I'm sorry but 3D CAD software has come a long way but it's too expensive and complicated for a home user. You'd need to come up with a Tony Stark-like CAD system for under $100 before it'll be ready for home use. Meanwhile, those of us who know our way around a CAD program are quite happy with our 3D printers, thank you very much.
  • by umafuckit (2980809) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @05:01PM (#46835893)
    They're called "3-D printers" to make them sound cool and imply they are an easy to use natural extension of ink/laser printers. But they're no such thing and consumers can see that and are confuse by it. 3-D printers are automated tools in the same way a CNC milling machine is an automated tool. In fact, they'd be better described as "CNC extruders" than as "3-D printers", since they have sod all to do with printing on paper. Does your generic consumer have a need for a "CNC extruder"? No he/she does not.

    These machines are for people who want to build new stuff. They're tools for machinists and others who want to work with wood, plastic or metal. People who have workshop in their garage. i.e. They're tools for people who know they need them. Furthermore, because they're the current "in" thing, they're being used in instances where a CNC milling machine would have been far more appropriate. This stupid crap with 3-D printed guns, for instance.

    • by nbritton (823086)

      This stupid crap with 3-D printed guns, for instance.

      Yeah, I don't understand this craze with plastic guns, people have been producing guns using manual milling machines and lathes for well over a century. Moreover, in my state, the mere possession of bullets without a license to possess a gun is a crime. Problem solved.

  • by Leslie43 (1592315) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @05:09PM (#46835941)
    Yes, ease of use and time are a big problem, as is strength and costs, both are issues on production based 3d printers as well, so don;t go thinking the big ones are better.

    No, what many forget is that many people simply don't create much.
    You can buy a small personal machine shop for your garage for about the price of a small 3d printer, you can also put together a nice woodshop as well. You can also buy tools to fix your car, or professional grade photo/video editors for photo and video editing. So why doesn't everyone have these? They have no need or want of them.

    The only reason printers in the home took off because people found a use for them, or got them free with their computer. Kids could type and print reports for school, you could print off reports for work, etc... What purpose does the average person have for modern 3d printers? NONE. It doesn't matter if the price is $30, it's time consuming, fickle, technical, and expensive. Do you rally want to spend 8 hours, and $10 on plastic to make a vase you can buy at Walmart for $3. Of course not.

    It doesn't matter how simple you make it, or how cheap, so long as it's easier and cheaper to just go buy the item you can print, it will never be on the kitchen counter. Get us somewhere close to Star Trek level replicators and yes, then we may see it, but until we get anywhere close to that, it's simply not going to happen in the average home. At the moment hobbyists and professionals are using them because they either need them or want to play with them, but the average home has absolutely zero use for one, anyone who says otherwise is riding the hype train and probably trying make a buck from it. Current 3d printers belong in labs, machine, hobby and fabrication shops, not the kitchen counter and it will remain that way for a long time yet.
  • 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.
  • by Kazoo the Clown (644526) on Friday April 25, 2014 @06:09AM (#46839373)
    Considering the popularity of predesigned artwork, Paint By Number, Needlepoint, etc., most people need to have it all figured out for them. A vending machine with a jukebox of existing models that you can tweak a little is what most people will want. In fact it's been done before-- Mold-O-Rama came out in 1962. Was a mild success at amusement parks and other touristy places, and lasted a few decades. A 3D printer is a slight improvement, but for most people, only when they can pick the model out of a catalog, or have it 3D scan their head and make them into an action figure.

"I have just one word for you, my boy...plastics." - from "The Graduate"

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