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Consumers Not Impressed With 3D Printing

Unknown Lamer posted about 6 months ago | from the drip-coffee-and-widget-maker dept.

Printer 302

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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Premature much (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#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 (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#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 (5, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | about 6 months ago | (#46835009)

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 (3, Informative)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about 6 months ago | (#46835189)

If you want a custom latex dildo, there are already kits for that.

Re:Premature much (1)

danbert8 (1024253) | about 6 months ago | (#46835521)

Yeah, but you have to get your junk all goopy...

Re:Premature much (2)

boristdog (133725) | about 6 months ago | (#46835285)

Yep, porn drove the acceptance of the internet. Home sex toy production will probably drive acceptance of 3-D printing.

So short your Fleshlight shares and go long on anyone making silicone rubber for 3-D printing.

Re:Premature much (4, Interesting)

ArcadeNut (85398) | about 6 months ago | (#46835059)

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.

Re:Premature much (2)

Anrego (830717) | about 6 months ago | (#46835137)

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:Premature much (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46835483)

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 (1)

rodrigoandrade (713371) | about 6 months ago | (#46835141)

Or wait until Apple figures it out and once again eats everyone's lunch.

Re:Premature much (5, Insightful)

aix tom (902140) | about 6 months ago | (#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 (4, Insightful)

goombah99 (560566) | about 6 months ago | (#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 (4, Insightful)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 6 months ago | (#46835233)

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

It's flying cars all over again, man.

Re:Premature much (1)

unrtst (777550) | about 6 months ago | (#46835495)

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 per town will probably be more than enough for something like that can do sturdy parts (metal, resin, casting from printed wax, etc).

The only way I see it making it into many homes is if the big companies royally screw up. If they, for instance, make sure that Staples won't print anything that is copywritten or trademarked etc, then you won't be able to run down there and print out a new GIJoe head... a home printer starts to make a lot of sense then, but only really because of politics and red tape.

Re:Premature much (3, Insightful)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 6 months ago | (#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.

Same with photo printers (5, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 6 months ago | (#46834951)

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.

Re:Same with photo printers (2)

CheezburgerBrown . (3417019) | about 6 months ago | (#46834997)

Working the 3d printer booth would probably be the only job at a Walmart retail location that I would ever consider.

Would make a nice job for young people that are aspiring to some line of tech work.

Re:Same with photo printers (3, Insightful)

Talderas (1212466) | about 6 months ago | (#46835043)

Load file.
Press print.

Yeah, real inspiration.

Re:Same with photo printers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46835087)

Lets not forget that while most of the orders will be simple extra-cheap toys or minor repair parts, there will be dicks. I mean that both in the sense of 'person who drops off an order and never picks it up/pays for it' and '3D printed sculptures of male sexual organs.' Often, the two will overlap.

Re:Same with photo printers (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 6 months ago | (#46835261)

Lets not forget that while most of the orders will be simple extra-cheap toys or minor repair parts, there will be dicks. I mean that both in the sense of 'person who drops off an order and never picks it up/pays for it' and '3D printed sculptures of male sexual organs.' Often, the two will overlap.

The first problem is easily solved, just make them pay when they drop off the file to be printed.

As for the second issue... well, as any of us who ever tried to have racy photos developed at Wal-Marx know, they'll probably refuse to print those. Or at least, refuse to give it to the customer (phrasing!)

Re:Same with photo printers (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 6 months ago | (#46835129)

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.

Re:Same with photo printers (1)

cdrudge (68377) | about 6 months ago | (#46835219)

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.

Re:Same with photo printers (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 6 months ago | (#46835527)

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

Re:Same with photo printers (1)

Anonymous Psychopath (18031) | about 6 months ago | (#46835155)

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.

Re:Same with photo printers (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 6 months ago | (#46835273)

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.

Re:Same with photo printers (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 6 months ago | (#46835325)

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.

Re:Same with photo printers (1)

RJFerret (1279530) | about 6 months ago | (#46835161)

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 that links to a report that they want you to buy which seems to say, "We don't know that people print sex toys." There's no indication consumers were consulted.

They need to look at the phallic shape of most Thingiverse uploads, re-write their white paper, and not charge £1750 to tell us they are ignorant of what they purport to write about.

Re:Same with photo printers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46835301)

People order sex toys instead of going to retail stores.

Sex toys are usually made from special molded rubber compounds, arenâ(TM)t they? I assume they possess some kind of moisture-resistence or anti-fungal qualities. The sort of plastic coming out of cheap 3D printers does not look suitable for sliding in and out of human orifices.

Re:Same with photo printers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46835253)

Excellent point - fully agreed on photo printing, and I don't see why 3D printing would be any different.

yep (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46834967)

I'm in agreement. I don't really need more small plastic crap around my house. I'm way more interested in ShopBot style CNC where you can actually build useful things like furniture, etc.

Perhaps (5, Funny)

Highland Deck Box (2786087) | about 6 months ago | (#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 (5, Informative)

Shakrai (717556) | about 6 months ago | (#46835053)

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.

Re:Perhaps (2)

Opportunist (166417) | about 6 months ago | (#46835371)

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.

Re:Perhaps (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 6 months ago | (#46835397)

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 (4, Informative)

gstoddart (321705) | about 6 months ago | (#46835097)

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?

Re:Perhaps (1)

nine-times (778537) | about 6 months ago | (#46835315)

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, the devices themselves are still huge and heavy. They still require drivers, which is insane. The drivers are often crappy and lacking support for a lot of platforms. I mean, really, what do printers do? They put ink or toner onto a sheet of paper. You'd think we could develop a standard interface and move away from drivers entirely. You'd think major printer manufacturers could at least make solid drivers that were trouble free. Nope. It's still a nightmare.

And don't even get me started on scanners. Network scanners are still completely retarded unless you shell out for a Fujitsu Scansnap or something comparable. Multi-function printers are a mess. I've given up on scanners altogether and started using one of those smartphone apps that lets you take a picture of your documents and dump it on Dropbox.

So yeah, I think the GP post has a point. An awful lot of consumer devices are crap.

Re:Perhaps (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46835353)

Brother color laser and Canon Pro-10 owner here. Love both of my printers.

Re:Perhaps (1)

mlts (1038732) | about 6 months ago | (#46835425)

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 of a C-note.

I think 3D printers will be similar. The cheap ones will probably have issues with melted filament. The good ones will have mechanisms to ensure that isn't an issue.

Printing the cart before the horse (1)

RobSwider (669148) | about 6 months ago | (#46835029)

The way this technology was presented to "The Public" a few years ago, it sounded like we would soon be buying stuff online and printing it at home. For those of us who recognize it for what it is--basically just a CNC hot-glue gun--it's still pretty impressive. But it's nowhere near the game-changer it was said to be. It'll happen, but it's going to take time for the software and chemical engineers to work out the wrinkles.

Re:Printing the cart before the horse (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 6 months ago | (#46835307)

The way this technology was presented to "The Public" a few years ago, it sounded like we would soon be buying stuff online and printing it at home.

Which, IMO, is exactly why normals aren't exactly chomping at the bit to buy themselves a 3D printer - the media tried to sell them a magic anything-duplicator, and the reality of the situation is that they're anything but.

Plus the steep learning curve; I doubt most people would even own a personal computer if there was no such thing as a GUI.

Apt quote (5, Insightful)

SteveFoerster (136027) | about 6 months ago | (#46835033)

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

Well DUH (2)

sootman (158191) | about 6 months ago | (#46835041)

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 (0)

WrongMonkey (1027334) | about 6 months ago | (#46835095)

Your example shows why it's pointless. It's just a chunk of plastic with no particular use. Probably took hours to print, but after you've look at it and said "Neat!" it just collects dust.

Re:Well DUH (1)

Bardez (915334) | about 6 months ago | (#46835461)

It's for use in something like tabletop gaming. It shows use for a great prop, that is creative and enhances the experience. It would also be a long-term waste of space. If we could get recycling down such that you can print it and ditch it (storing the source digital file) without creating massive clutter, this would be awesome.

Re:Well DUH (4, Insightful)

queazocotal (915608) | about 6 months ago | (#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.

Re:Well DUH (2)

Bardez (915334) | about 6 months ago | (#46835475)

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.

Re:Well DUH (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46835447)

So instead of all of those cat videos on youtube, it'll be 3D cat models?

Custom lego parts! (2, Insightful)

Servaas (1050156) | about 6 months ago | (#46835047)

Take my money now!

Re:Custom lego parts! (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 6 months ago | (#46835369)

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 (4, Interesting)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 6 months ago | (#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:wrong target (2)

Collective 0-0009 (1294662) | about 6 months ago | (#46835291)

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, which is usually not people that buy million dollar machines.

Re:wrong target (1)

Skynyrd (25155) | about 6 months ago | (#46835377)

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.

There already (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46835415)

Industrial 3D printers are available and widely used already. However, those machines do not usually extrude plastic filament and are not $300 toys ...

Consumers are right (5, Insightful)

WrongMonkey (1027334) | about 6 months ago | (#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?

Re:Consumers are right (1)

ducomputergeek (595742) | about 6 months ago | (#46835269)

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 than to print it myself.

Re:Consumers are right (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46835321)

Anyone that thinks 3D printing is something regular consumers care about and that time of large-scale consumer 3D printing is now... has breathed too much of his own fumes.

Consumer 3D printers are expensive toys for overgrown boys, at least at this point. There may be widening, but small core audience, but at this point real markets are somewhere else: selling professional printing technology to companies that need them, or sell printing services with delivery to consumers. This takes away the rebel factor, but how many people are really going to offset the price of a 3D printer at this point by their "home manufacturing?" Probably not many.

All in all, low consumer interest in 3D printers sounds like "surprising" low interest in dedicated home-based web server solely to host photos of your dog. There are so much more cost effective ways to get the things done, and most people that can count and aren't dedicated to the task of over-tinkering can figure that out. Thus, I'm surprised that anyone could be surprised of the lack of popular demand for home 3D printers.

The Big Bang Theory quote time (5, Funny)

smooth wombat (796938) | about 6 months ago | (#46835057)

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!

Re:The Big Bang Theory quote time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46835197)

If you 3d-print something that is not unique, you are doing it wrong.

Re:The Big Bang Theory quote time (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46835237)

Which is why consumers aren't impressed with 3D printing. Very few people have a need for a one off.

It is really amazing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46835359)

What is interesting is that you consider moving to the party store cheap.
For me it takes a significant amount of time and effort(and gas for my car)moving there. I mean in the order of 30-45 minutes and one or two litters of gasoline of my car(at 1.5 euros/litter). My salary is over 60 euros/hour.

Anyway in 3 hours I can make exactly 12 whisles at the same time with my HBOT printer in the same plate. It can be faster although I have only tested 12 groups for a 3D group party meeting. I switch on the thing and go away as everything is automated including bed leveling.

Also it could be personalized in 30 seconds with the initial or the name of the person that receives the present, something you don't get with any 25 cents party store whistle.

We (the party group) create our own filament at 6eur/kilo.
As an engineer I could use and need those machines. In the future(5 years) there will be millions and everybody will be able to do the same things I do, cheaply and easily.

It is an error trying to think in 3D printers as being used for the thing that had been used until this day. This is like predicting 40 years ago that the computer you will hold in your hand will be used for statistical central planning, population census, and ballistic simulations(actually IBM believed in that).

The fact is that thousands of individuals design and collaborate over the Internet, with places like thingiverse or grabcad is going to change lots of things, like the PC did. E.g suddenly you can design a collaborative car like with Linux.

We're 3D printing the wrong stuff for mainstream! (1)

leonbev (111395) | about 6 months ago | (#46835069)

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 :)

Re:We're 3D printing the wrong stuff for mainstrea (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 6 months ago | (#46835205)

This is why we can't have nice things!

Consumers != Creators (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46835083)

Of course consumers are not excited. The excitement of a 3d printer isn't creating a duplicate plastic part that you could purchase in a store for 30 cents. 3D printers are exciting to people who create their own stuff: creators. There's a fundamental cultural divide between creators and consumers: tablets and for consumers, laptops and desktops are for creators. Saying that consumer's aren't ready for 3d printers is like saying consumers aren't ready for a new programming language. Of course they aren't, they don't care. Consumers get excited about a new toy (maybe even one designed on a 3d printer, by a creator) or a new app or game (built in a programming language by a creator).

They aren't us. Wishing won't make it so.

Re:Consumers != Creators (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46835505)

What put 3D printing on the map were the articles of printing guns. Consumers didn't care about prototypes or the fact that a person was using 3D printing for cheap hospital items that could be made in some closet in a disaster-struck area.

Of course, my worry is when sintering mills get to consumer level. Right now, a Mitsubushi additive/subtractive mill (Lumex Avance 25) costs $845,946. However with the knee jerk reactions of lawmakers and the press that preys on fears, I wouldn't be surprised to see layers and layers of DRM, legal wrangling, and lots of red tape before something like that ever gets into the five or even the quad digit mark. I wouldn't be surprised to see a law passed that requires all 3D printers to only print signed files (with some clearinghouse signing all designs.)

It's a culture problem. (4, Insightful)

mosb1000 (710161) | about 6 months ago | (#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.

They can't even change batteries (1)

bussdriver (620565) | about 6 months ago | (#46835121)

I know people who toss the remote and buy new when the batteries wear out.

Unless it produces items with an idiot proof phone app which automatically are assembled and functional after printing, I can't see them using it. It better have a big "ink" tank because some people will buy a new printer when it goes empty...

Re:It's a culture problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46835143)

Let me fix this for you ;)

Right now we have a consumer culture that doesn't really teach people to make and repair their own guns (which is what a 3D printing would mostly be useful for). So while a 3D printer might someday be useful for right wing nuts who need to make gun parts or a regular soldier who needs to make a custom rifle, 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, bullets, rpg, explosives) and people get more used to it, we may see the market for the technology grow, assuming war isn't outlawed first.

Re:It's a culture problem. (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | about 6 months ago | (#46835419)

Is this the Dianne Feinstein [wikipedia.org] version?

3D printerz??? (1)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about 6 months ago | (#46835091)

Que the "Oh NOES! You can use them to make teh undetectable gunz!! The story at 10:00" local news teasers.

Scanner + Printer combo FTW (2)

scorp1us (235526) | about 6 months ago | (#46835105)

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.

Content Creation isn't there (1)

CryptDemon (1772622) | about 6 months ago | (#46835115)

People can do regular photo printers because they can make photos. They have documents because they can create documents. There is all sorts of easy-to-use software out there that allows you to make up your own creation very easily without any real skill. To make shit on a 3D printer, first you have to plop down a thousand dollars for a crappy one. Then you have to go make a 3d model, which is way harder than snapping a picture or writing a word document or coming up with a quick flyer. Oh and then you have to spend tons of money on this really expensive powder and other compounds, and oh fuck it I'll just go buy a couple of toys from the store for cheaper. These are niche products.

Re:Content Creation isn't there (2)

AmbiLobe (2999721) | about 6 months ago | (#46835151)

I create 3D content with my Perl program. I am a consumer who tried the 3D printer service at the UPS Store in February, 2014. The documentation for the consumer to read does not exist. They could not print my Venus Globe as a turn-key job, so communications stopped from their end (New York City). Here are pictures of my consumer application simulation: http://venusglobe.cabanova.com... [cabanova.com] Conclusion: for the 3D printer retailer to get consumers to spend money, they need to tell us several facts. Facts: use one file for the 3D product. The retailer uses a certain CAD software that is disclosed to the consumer so she can duplicate a problem. The retailer runs a sanity check on the product and gives the results to the consumer, like this: http://i.materialise.com/ [materialise.com]

Re:Content Creation isn't there (3)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 6 months ago | (#46835317)

Back in the day, my dad knew a guy in the military who thought Microsoft would be big. He said the guy was an idiot. Dude was like, "Look man, computers, pre-packaged software, nobody wants to write their own code!" Dad wrote a voice recognition system on the VIC-20, figured prepackaged software was a no-go industry but computers would be big and everyone would learn to program them.

You're going to see a lot of "My 3D printer is awesome because I can model things and print, and everyone in the world will want to print things they make!" idiocy going around here. 3D printers aren't universal constructors; they can't make high-quality plastic with injection molding or carving or shaping, much less metal and circuits. And even then, it takes specialized processes to make certain materials: you can etch ICs easy enough with a universal fabricator, but what happens when you want an electric-motor-driven ceramic burr coffee grinder? Glass, ceramic (what kind? What grade, what process?), steel (what type?), plastic, screws, basins, lids, hoppers, shafts, bearings. Just working with "metal" is an exercise in working with hundreds of different material--thousands when you start getting into anything like car parts or fountain pens.

I as an enthousiast do not see a 3d print world (2)

bitflusher (853768) | about 6 months ago | (#46835135)

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)! My opinion: Some things will be printed such as unique small items and parts to repair stuff. And the 3d printed steak.. not going to happen. We already have vega-meat-replacement nobody calls them steaks. One example what it is usefull for. I am currently printing a lense cap holder to snap two caps on a strap. This needs to be printed because almost noboby had a 71mm and a 57mm cap. I print this because it will never excist as a product.

Potential, but falls short (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46835147)

a) I can make plastic things that I desire
b) I can make plastic things for others
c) Brittle, fragile or low-resolution is not a replacement

The problem with (a) is that the average person is not an artist, so a "3D scanner" is still required and those have not surfaced despite their existance. So you're stuck with downloading 3D models that OTHER people have made.
(b) involves getting those files much in the same ways as early mp3's. There's no killer software/market for it other than stupid proof-of-concept firearms.

(c) ultimately means you can make LEGO-like bricks but not toothpicks. I can print off the parts for a 3D BJD(Ball Jointed Doll) but I still have to sand it down, and the parts will be hollow like a chocolate easter bunny otherwise it will be too heavy.

The two major failing points are resolution and durability. Nothing produced for the consumer will ever be durable enough. And without being able to dye the plastic in-situ it will largely be limited to making replacement parts for things people already have rather than making new things.

No real use case (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46835179)

Two of my co workers own such device. One of these devices is now located in a student office. First, it was assembled for a week. Second, auxiliary pieces where printed. Third, replacement parts where printed because the original pieces were sub standard. Fourth, little gimmicks, gifts, a statue from the Easter Island, and a 3D representation of a software system where created.

In summary, the tool never produced anything of value. Therefore, the stuff lacks a real use case in real life for real people.

The killer application (4, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | about 6 months ago | (#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.

Re:The killer application (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46835289)

Yes, this exactly. 3D printing at home will be useful to me when I can go to a website, click on a picture in a parts diagram, and "print" a replacement part for my lawnmower, or my car. ...but when this technology does become available, it will be shut down very quickly by teams of lawyers using patents, copyrights, trademarks, and whatever else can be used to kill it.

Otherwise, 3D printing for home use is just a toy.

Re:The killer application (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46835297)

I work on and restore cars as a hobby. I don't need plastic parts, I need metal. Consumer 3D printing of metal parts isn't there yet.

Re:The killer application (3, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | about 6 months ago | (#46835399)

Plastic has been the staple of the car industry for a few decades now, long enough that soon even "classics" will be made mostly of plastic. Wait a decade or two and the "classics" you restore will need plastic parts.

Re:The killer application (2)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 6 months ago | (#46835363)

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.

Re:The killer application (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 6 months ago | (#46835421)

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.

HP might make it work, but with DRM. (5, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | about 6 months ago | (#46835201)

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:HP might make it work, but with DRM. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46835267)

recirculating-ball nuts

Hey! This is a family website.

We have one at work. I can see why... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46835207)

I can see why consumers aren't impressed with it.

My program manager convinced the higher ups in our company to spend the few grand to get a consumer grade 3D printer for our project. It took him weeks to get it set up and working correctly and the parts we made were not robust. But since it was for prototyping, the robustness didn't matter. So long as we got a few weeks of use out of them, it was cheaper and faster than sending the design files off to have fabricated.

But therein lies the problem with 3D printing in consumer space. Consumers don't *want* prototypes that only last a few weeks. Most people I know who have access to consumer 3D printers have built a few knickknacks they have on their shelves or charms they have on their key rings, and nothing else.

As for work, as our prototype designs started stabalizing and we needed more durable parts, they invested in a 3D printer that could work with several different materials (from soft rubber to hard plastics.) The catch? It was 70 grand.

tl;dr: 3D printing won't catch on among consumers until you can do more with it than print the OpenGL teapot and low-quality cell phone cases.* (And personally, I can't wait...)

* Yes, I do realize that a hobbyist can do a lot with a 3D printer. Most people aren't hobbyists.

Re:We have one at work. I can see why... (1)

thevirtualcat (1071504) | about 6 months ago | (#46835259)

Forgot to log in before I posted that...

Useful consumer application (3, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | about 6 months ago | (#46835209)

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.

One word: food (1)

nani popoki (594111) | about 6 months ago | (#46835241)

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.

Quantum Apostrophe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46835247)

is laughing at you gullible, naive idiots. 3D printing a car or a house ... Jesus Christ what is wrong with our educational system when unmedicated adults believe such asinine bullshit?

I love how it's the *consumer's* fault for "not understanding"! Hey idiots, they understood JUST FINE, the market has spoken, now fuck off with your 3D hyperbole already.

Considering Republicans... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46835281)

hate new things and are afraid of anything that can compete with their monopolies, of course they're killing 3D printing. That is their way. They don't think. They only react out of fear.

3d printing is still very much a "maker" device (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 6 months ago | (#46835299)

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 people who could actually use it.

Why does a 3d printer require mass consumer appeal to take off? What's wrong with it just being an appliance thats going to only most strongly appeal to somebody in the maker community?

But why? (1)

JustNiz (692889) | about 6 months ago | (#46835303)

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 fine/small gears or other highly detailed parts.

For me at least, the current situation is that for the 2 or 3 things I would ever want to print, it still works out both cheaper and better print quality for me to pay someone with a commercial 3D printer to do a run for me, rather than buying my own makerbot or whatever.

one trick pony (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46835393)

Here's the reason people aren't impressed... because it has little to no use for the common person.
They can create a "bust of the week" sculpture. Or they can make some sh*tty plastic toys at home for their kids. It's got the same usefulness as computer controlled sewing machines. Those things can do some really awesome stuff these days.
There's a fantastic use for these ... in business. Hobbyists love them... and they are indeed awesome for hobbies.
But they don't have much day to day utility.

Same with 3D printers.
Sorry guys... I *love* some of the amazing stuff you can do with 3D printers, but it won't ever get the kind of mainstream acceptance that you're thinking of.

Consumers Unimpressed by Personal Computing (4, Insightful)

Fulminata (999320) | about 6 months ago | (#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.

It took a survey to figure that out? (3, Interesting)

Skynyrd (25155) | about 6 months ago | (#46835405)

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.

It's not a CONSUMER technology nor should it be. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46835429)

Like a milling machine or lathe, 3D printing is fundamentally a commercial tech with some hobby applications.

Why? The DECISIONS involved in design and production require a different skillset than "consumer".

In other news, eating donuts doesn't make you a fucking baker.

FOOLS! (0)

Jim Sadler (3430529) | about 6 months ago | (#46835473)

China is using 3D printers that can churn out 10 homes every 24 hours. These are cheap homes at $4,800 each for rural areas. But the point is that not only for social issues but also for making huge money 3D printing is the breakthrough we have all waited for. Corporations will either love or hate these devices as the social changes that will occur will eliminate many traditional factories and industries. I simply fail to see why people can't predict the changes that we will see. It is true that the tiny unit used by hobbyists have limits but larger, industrial scale units are amazing.

HP rotting from within (1)

kheldan (1460303) | about 6 months ago | (#46835487)

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.

Unrealistic expectations. (1)

MaWeiTao (908546) | about 6 months ago | (#46835491)

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 understanding of the technology and so holds unrealistic expectations. Unfortunately, this mentality seems pervasive as far too many people believe that the instant they hear of a new technology it's ready for mass consumption.

The reality is that many consumers struggle to set up a mere ink jet. They muddle through applications like Word and PowerPoint, using a fraction of available functionality. They need to call an electrician to replace a light switch and AAA to mount a spare tire. In light of all that, what hope in hell do they have of manipulating a 3D model, preparing it for printing and then assembling it?

Some day, the technology will likely affect the lives of nearly everyone. But I can't imagine it will happen in the way some people seem to be envisioning it.

How to impress Joe 7-pack (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 6 months ago | (#46835513)

Print me a beer and pizza; THEN we are talkin'

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