@cwarner7_11: Thanks for wading in with your perspective, which puts a lot into context given your familiarity and experience in the 3D printing world. I think your point about creating the 3D models (or the CAD requirement today) being an obstacle for the technology to mesh with the mainstream is spot on. That's what I continually hear from both users and the industry. But I think industry is well aware of the hurdle and is making strides to address. Check out this recent post on a couple of content creation tools that should help and I know there are more out there.
I recently built from a kit one of the RepRap filament printers to explore the technology first hand (I have actually been a user of rapid prototyping since the late 1980's). The kit was comparable in price to the low-end Objet unit, but probably requiring more "tweaking" to get the results I would like to see. Building my own machine was critical for me, in that I wanted to know how it works, not because of price...
1. The technology is definitely priced at a range to develop interest in the "consumer" marketplace- when I think of how much I paid for my first laser printer or even my first inkject printer compared to what I paid for the computers driving them, the price of an entry-level 3D printer is quite reasonable.
2. Materials are cheap.
3. 3D printing will never replace the machine shop (I have my 3D printer right next to my hobbiest lathe-mill set-up, alothough not in the same room- I think the 3D printer I built needs a bit cleaner environment). The technology is complimentary.
4. The real limitation to the home user adopting the technology is going to be the CAD capabilities required to get from thought to g-code (actually, once the model is built, generating the g-code is trivial. Building the 3D model is the hard part).
5. To really explore some of the things hobbiests are doing, one should visit their sites (i.e., "Thingiverse"). This is where the home user is going to be "shopping"- the designs can be downloaded in 3D models ready to print (of course, of varying quality and finesse, but still taking the major pain out of the process).
The "home user" is unlikely to want to print a full-size turbo-prop engine. The "home user" is going to be more interested in printing cute little cartton characters for the kids, or custom jewelry, or their own "artistic creations".
@3Drob: I like your point about the speed in which this field is developing. 3D printing and additive manufacturing have been around for a long time and have definitely made progress over the years. But there's been a lot of focus and excitement in the last two years alone--the last one really upping the ante in terms of lowering barriers to entry. I think a lot of that market attention has bred a lot of new developments and the cycle begins. Now that the technology is accessible to more people, there is more atttention as to how you can use it and that again, is driving new innovation.
Well, it won't be the end all for machinists, but I do think it will replace them for some jobs. In fact I am sure will. Ahhh progress. It'll be cheaper I would think though, rather than getting a part machined...that's a good thing.
They can laser scinter (spelling?) metal parts now. They can also post plate plastic parts so it has some of the properties of metal.
I have a friend with a string printer (uses a spool of plastic string as the raw stock, I believe slide 8 was done with a similar printer). It's amazing what you can make with it and how fast this field is developing.
It's scary for machinists. I mean CNC machines costs like $50k then add a guy to run it. With these printers....just the CAD guy could do his job. Just draw it up and print it...no extra costs. Scares me becuase I used to be a machinist.
I wanted to say...they won't ever replace machinists because machinists make high precision parts. Then I thought...I think they print at .007" ...not shabby. I still am not sure how that works out in 3d...for tolerances...but....think about it. If they can print that precise NOW......in a few years it could be down to .0001"......machinists...well their machines aren't that good.
As cool as they may be....and I have not decided yet. I still wonder about metal. If they can do it with plastic now then someone will find a way to do it will metal soon. THAT will be cool! and if they can hold tolerances....I hate to imagine. no more machinists?....ugly thought
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