As we all know, 3D printing is revolutionizing the way we manufacture products today. Not everyone is excited about the technology, however. While some cloud-based programs and printers support the free transmission of designs and blueprints, others are taking advantage of this plethora of free resources and marketing others' ideas as their own. Is it right? Is it wrong? Let's look at some of the upcoming cloud-based technology and decide for ourselves.
We can’t touch on emerging cloud-based 3D-printing technology without first mentioning New Matter. New Matter is a new end-to-end 3D-printing system that seeks to ignite the full incorporation of 3D printing into everyday life. Why send your friend an e-card for a birthday when you can send a 3D design straight to his or her printer, wirelessly? Oh yes. This is about to get good.
The New Matter system encompasses complimentary software, online community swarming with ready-to-print designs, and of course a 3D printer. The MOD-t 3D printer is not just any printer, however. It is simplifying the 3D-printing process, making printing more accessible and affordable for all.
New Matter's MOD-t 3D printer.
(Source: New Matter)
The MOD-t 3D printer is a beautiful piece of machinery. It features innovative printing technology that relies on two axes for printing and support, elegantly encased in a glass box. The new printing method is said to give users better quality and more predictable prints, at a fraction of the cost. The New Matter team is working to give the DC servo motor-powered printer the capability to print 0.1-mm-thick layers, but isn’t making any promises.
The MOD-t will retail for $250 for early backers, which includes access to the software, online store, and apps. The online store will allow users to download ready-made 3D prints or buy designer prints made by known artists. If you are the artist, you can sell your creations at the store, too.
New Matter has a vision of creating an online space that makes 3D printing a part of everyday life. Why buy a new pencil holder when you can print it (and customize it, for that matter)? 3D printing brings out the inventor in us all. New matter isn’t the only company, however, that’s taking 3D printing to the cloud.
Cookie Caster is a platform through which people can download and design custom cookie cutters. The cloud-based software takes care of all the back-end stuff, so you just have to worry about baking.
To begin, users can upload an image to cookiecaster.com. The software traces the image and turns it into a print. Exceptionally creative users can draw their very own designs right on the provided drawing board. Efficient shoppers can download any print they like and print as-is or edit.
Cookie Caster conceptualization.
(Source: Cookie Caster)
The great debate
Some companies, such as New Matter and Cookie Caster, believe keeping 3D-printing and design communities open is the obvious choice to unleash the full potential of the technology. Others disagree. While the downloading and sharing of prints on these types of spaces is free, there have allegedly been cases of people taking these designs, rebranding them, and marketing them as their own. Open source or proprietary? You decide.
3D-printing technology is unique in that no one “owns” it. The technology itself is not patented, and anyone who wants to create and market his or her own 3D-printing thingamabobs is free to do so. Although open-source makes new technology open to anyone who wants it (often for free), manufacturing the technology is not free.
The fact of the matter is that most people cannot build their own 3D printers -- at least not ones that can take on MakerBot. So if they want one, they’ll need to pay up. In the same breath, those who need 3D prints, but don’t have printers of their own, will need to pay someone to print it for them. Even if the owner of the printer doesn’t charge them a fee for printing (which is unlikely), the filament and wear on the machine are not free.
This is not a post on economics, but 3D printers are not free because they are not free to manufacture. Nonetheless, what’s wrong with a happy medium? If people pay for their printers but they get software such as Autodesk's Spark for free, what’s the big deal? The bigger malpractice is probably stealing someone else’s work and marketing it as your own, but that’s a whole different topic. Be careful printers. The thieves of the night are watching you and your designs.