I also know that some of this 3D printing is going to make it possible to make things that otherwise would not be able to be machined. I still feel the loss of hands on knowledge will just get exponentially worse.
It's kind of happening now I think. There are these CAD Engineers from school that know design so they CAD up a part and send the program out to the floor. Then the ACTUAL machinists say...I can't make this. The CAD guys have never machined a part in their life and have no idea of what they can and can't actually make. I think every designer should have some experience on the floor so they have some practicality in their designs.
cadcoke5...I could not agree more. Until you machine things and make them....you said it better than I can...but it gives you a certain knowledge of how things work that you can't and won't get from printing a part.
The CAD and engineering guys don't have the same body of knowledge as a machinest. The machinest has much better education and experience in regard to the real world.
We can't all know it all. I think this pairing of theoretical and practical knowledge is something that can't be replaced by a new machine. If it is attempted, then you end up with someone who makes designs that are much more at risk of being impractical or failing.
The big limitation that I see is in mmaterials, and the properties of those materials. Not that a creative person can't make amazing things, but the strength and other properties certainly does matter. Of course we can make models to use to make molds, but casting steel is still a big deal type of thing. Those 3D printers able to produce steel parts are beyond the range of most hobby type designers.
@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".
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