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Printer Science

The Modern Ease of 3D Printing 264

An anonymous reader writes "What will it mean when 3D fabricators become cheap and common? A NY Times article explores the ease of copying objects by scanning them with NextEngine scanner and sending them to 3d 'print shops'. The experiments were done with Legos because most of the things around his office were protected by copyright. What will happen to the economy for engineering when we can just download a pirated description of a machine and 'print' it out? 'The world is just beginning to grapple with the implications of this relatively low-cost duplicating method, often called rapid prototyping. Hearing aid companies, for instance, are producing some custom-fitted ear pieces from scanned molds of patients. Custom car companies produce new parts for classic cars or modified parts for hot rods. Consumer product makers create fully functional designs before committing themselves to big production runs.'"
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The Modern Ease of 3D Printing

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  • Realigning teeth (Score:4, Interesting)

    by greg_barton ( 5551 ) * < minus herbivore> on Thursday April 05, 2007 @11:28AM (#18621359) Homepage Journal
    One cool application of rapid prototyping I've seen is "invisible braces." Essentially a mold of your mouth is taken, then a computer model is created of where you teeth should be. A series of hard plastic mouth molds is then created that "morphs" your mouth from the reality to the desired. The molds are created using the rapid prototyping.

    Here's [] the company site. No, I'm not a shill. :)
  • Craftsmanship (Score:5, Interesting)

    by backwardMechanic ( 959818 ) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @11:28AM (#18621369) Homepage
    Maybe we will see a return to craftsmanship and individually crafted items. 3D printing is really the final stage in mass production - the same thing, reproduced over and over, rather than adapted to the wants or needs of a particular user. Imagine a world where you go to your local computer/car/furniture shop to discuss exactly what shape you'd like, what colour, materials, etc. Or, if you're happy with the same item as everybody else, it'll just keep getting cheaper.
  • Digital food (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 05, 2007 @11:32AM (#18621443)
    A modern individual has the capability of mastering their own music and movies, post-processing and distributing their own photographs in both digital and physical form, creating their own PCB-based electronics, designing their own Microprocessors, building their own vehicles (airplanes are a big one!), and many other tasks that used to require massive resources and tens-to-hundreds of emlpoyees.

    I can grow my own food, too, and have done so. What happens when someone copyrights corn's DNA? Monsanto has already patented genetic sequences, and sued farmers who grew food contaminated by Monsanto's GM crap.

    Have none of you ever seen Star Trek? We are rapidly heading in that direction. 3D printers are the first step toward the "matter replicator". What happens when these 3D printers are microscopic, printing molecule by molecule or atom by atom?

  • Re:Non-Usable (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <> on Thursday April 05, 2007 @11:34AM (#18621485) Homepage Journal

    from the examples I've seen, the rapid prototyping tools can't currently create a durable item

    This has been changing. Modern printers use much stronger materials based on resins similar to those used in Legos. So if you need a plastic part, you should be able to print one of reasonable strength. For example, I could see a huge market for toys on demand much in the way that books are slowly moving to print on demand.

    nor can they create moving parts to any great degree

    It's fairly rare to be able to create a moveable part in a single mold. Usually, you create a variety of parts, then assemble them. When this starts to catch on with consumers, I imagine you'll first see products coming in many parts with "some assembly required". Later revisions of the technology might include robotic assemblers that construct devices in a manner similar to how PODs are now able to print and bind nearly any book. While the precise assembly options may not be comprehensive, model developers will know the limitations of the machines and attempt to modify their models so that they're more easily assembled by the robotics.

    Also, there is an issue of scale that needs to be considered. There's nothing preventing a larger 3D printer from printing in concretes or metals. In fact, there was a story here a few weeks ago about a 3D printer that could construct a house in a few days. But why stop there? Ship hulls, car bodies, air foils, and many other items which are so large as to be difficult to mold could conceivably be printed instead. In many cases it may even be advantageous, as the part will be producable as a single object with no seams or rivets. This can potentially strengthen the object overall. Chemical agents can also be used to treat the object for better strength and endurance.

    Obviously, the technology is just getting started. But it has been making great strides in the short time it's been available. Give it a decade or two more and the necessary material injection techniques and production methods will get most of the bugs worked out. :)
  • by argoff ( 142580 ) * on Thursday April 05, 2007 @11:47AM (#18621729)

    What will hhappen to the economy for engineering when we can just download a pirated description of a machine and 'print' it out?

    The biggest economic boom in the history of human kind.

    After the information age society is going to move into the replication age and manufacturing is going to shift from the factory back into the home. But the factory infrastructure won't go away - instead it will retool and go big. Mile long ships, mile high buildings, air ships as big as cities that have cities in them are just some of the possibilities. Society will become an invention service society.

    One other thing. When invention commoditizes, the patent system will die - Just like the information age forced the commoditisation of information and the death of copyrights, and the industrial revolution forced the commoditisation of labor and the violent death of the plantation system. That is why it is so important THAT WE MUST KILL PATENTS!!!!! Think about it, you can't control information with physical force, but with invention you can. That is why the death of copyrights will involve lots of lawsuits but little physical violence. That won't be the case when killing the patent system. WE MUST KILL PATENTS NOW BECAUSE IF WE DONT THERE WILL BE AWFULL VIOLENCE.

  • Re:Non-Usable (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 05, 2007 @11:59AM (#18621925)
    Except, if the shell is sealed, how does the solvent get inside to free up the moving parts?
  • by coredog64 ( 1001648 ) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @12:08PM (#18622069)
    You are fucking high if you think a nut or a bolt are perfect things for printing.

    Fasteners are more than just physical objects with a particular shape -- they also depend on the intrinsic material properties. You know, stuff that's only imparted by forging, heat treating, etc. If you don't believe me, try this as an experiment:

    Go out into your garage, remove a/the cylinder head cover from your car's engine, remove a cylinder head bolt, heat it cherry red with a blowtorch and put it back. Dollars to doughnuts you'll soon be making a tow-truck assisted trip to your local dealership.
  • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <> on Thursday April 05, 2007 @12:33PM (#18622463) Homepage Journal plastic or resin, starch, what haveyou.

    Actually, you can create it in any material supported by the printer. As the 3D Printers evolve, they're beginning to print other materials besides plastic. For example, that 3D House Printing story a few weeks ago was not done out of plastics and resins. It was done out of concrete materials designed to work well with the printer. Unsurprisingly, there are also metal printers [] available for many tasks. You only hear about plastic materials so much because they're easy to work with, cheap to produce, and are very versatile in creating different objects.
  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday April 05, 2007 @12:59PM (#18622815) Homepage Journal
    And then they cans teal stuff they could of just made with there 3d Printer!

    If a burgler gets hold of the key, why the HELL do they need to copy it? If for some reason you think the owner wuold miss it, just replace the house key with any similiar key. They won't know there has been a switch until they get home anyways.

    Of course, I don't think any burglers actually uses a key.
  • by nanotrends ( 980567 ) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @01:54PM (#18623629)
    Besides rapid prototyping there is also rapid manufacturing [] which is using the equipment of rapid prototyping to make production grade parts and products. There are various system that can produce metal parts including titanium. Also, completely functional electronics and MEMS can be produced. When does it make sense to use rapid manufacturing ? - Short production runs where you do not want to set up dedicated high volume production. - Require bridge manufacturing while waiting for tooling. - Manufacture jigs and fixtures. - Require rapid turnaround of 2-5 days. (Alpha and beta product launches, for example, require a very small total production but very fast turnaround time.) - Need parts that utilize complex geometries with negative angles, undercuts, thin walls or complex injection molded parts. It's also appropriate for parts without draft angles or ejector pin placements, or those with critical dimensional stability requirements. - Need to conserve capital for cash flow. - Conduct continuous design iterations during feasibility and market validation studies. Rapid manufacturing parts allow engineers and manufacturers to design, build and test their parts as many times as necessary. There are service bureaus for Rapid Manufacturing as well. Just like going to a Kinkos to print off 24 inch by 36 inch architectural drawings for $2-10 each. Small and mid-size companies can go and get functional short run products produced for a few hundred bucks. The $20,000 to 1 million price of these machines is coming down. So first there will be a lot more 3D service bureaus. Breakthroughs to reduce the capital and operating costs could change the situation. the fab@home and reprap projects are more affordable capabilities. The DIY person who has a fully equipped workshop and CAD system could eventually upgrade when nanotech breakthrough versions arrive 2015-2030.

Do not underestimate the value of print statements for debugging.