Well, I’m about the only one who hasn’t weighed in on the deep, molten pool of plasticy ramifications seeping out of the HP + Stratasys 3D printer deal which happened last week.
For good reason too. I’ve been busy running back and forth along the fence in my backyard, pelting the neighbors dog with polycarbonate pellets while pondering just what a new HP-branded 3D printer means for that small segment of highly influential people called the “mainstream.” Do they need one? Do you need one? What are the problems they will solve?
Here, I take you on an adventure to the bayou, the car shop, a family gathering or maybe your office break room to have a little Q&A with a couple people who will invariably be printing our future, our 3D future.
What is mainstream?
Who cares. What’s cool is a little perspective seen through the imaginary (totally valid) lens of our average Joe and Mary Six-pack, who, in this example, sound like and resemble hillbillies from the back country… these are the people that will explain it all. Are you ready? We join them at the dinner table after they’ve just heard about printing objects in 3D… here’s what they had to say…
“WHAT in tarnation is a 3D and why would I want to print it?”
Well Joe, put the hammer down please, printing something other than the owners manual for a 1962 Ford Galaxie, seems shocking and, to be quite honest, totally unnecessary right, but wrap your dimensionally-challenged printer finger around this. What if you could print that Ford Galaxie? Instead of sheets of paper, how about sheets of plastic printed on top of each other in the shape of the car… or a part of the car, or a part of a part of the car… or a deer skull for a car? Your smile tells me everything Joe. 3D printing is going to change your life.
“I hooked up a Stratasyster to my lawn mower and got some big HP out that there thing.”
Close… but… ok, I’ve never actually seen someone do that with a beer bottle… shall we continue? So, a little boost in the ol’ crank case is exactly what both companies are aiming for. HP reaches a new market, Stratasys expands their product line and increases their patent portfolio. I’d venture to say HP has a strong base in consumer and business printers. Strong enough, that after this little experiment, HP would have first dibs on acquiring Stratasys and their patent technology.
“Old John-boy builds model trains for his miniature marsupial village. Could he use 3D printing for that?”
You, Mr. Joe, are right on the money. In fact, the hobby market is probably going to be one of the biggest benefactors of this kind of tech early on. Imagine it, model railroad, rockets, gaming miniatures and R/C cars, not to mention all the craft and kitsch that range from scrap-booking to jewelry. When those people see time-saving and customization wrapped in a gleaming (low-priced) HP desktop printer, you have what many would consider a good market.
“Could I print fire-retardant refrigeration ducting and attach it to my bed to cool my bunions while I sleep?”
OK, Joe. You’re a hard worker. No need to work harder bending sheet metal or constructing a fiberglass enclosure to cool your aching clod stompers. If you add up the time it takes to 1) design the ducting 2) purchase the material 3) receive the material and 4) cut and form the material, you have an obscure amount of cost wrapped up in production. You can send designs out to be printed now, but having your own ‘duct printer’ makes it all the more likely to happen.
“My baby chokes on small toys, can I print larger ones he can gum without me worrying?”
Mary, that is a GREAT question. Who wants to watch a child when there’s endless hours of brilliant daytime programming on. That would be a shame. Instead, scan your tiny bits of plastic, scale it, print it and let the gnawing begin. In fact, maybe you can use the Fisher-Price memory card the HP 3D printer came bundled with and print out some samples that are marketed directly to people like you. Oh, and yes, you could print a new broom handle to replace the one you broke over ol’ Joe’s head last week.
“If the diseased and infirm escape the mental institution can I print weaponry that surpasses my unearthly strength to defend myself?”
Well Joe, aren’t you just getting creative? Of course, once you get going it’s easy to imagine the limitless possibilities a 3D printer in the home or office could create. So most likely, you’ll have websites popping up, to let you know exactly what kind of weapon you need to print with instructions on how to beat away the leprous, genetically mutated, zombified or militant statist that come to seize your property, grain or brain.
So there, it’s proven, as Stratasys and HP are most assuredly aware of, even your common hillbilly folk can see the benefits in the miracle of an HP-branded 3D printer. We no longer need to question if it’s feasible, if material cost or print quality are going to be a factor. They’re not. End of argument. Who cares if you don’t want to print a car, a marsupial village, fire-retardant refrigeration ducting, over-sized toys, or weapons. You will. By jove you will, and you will like it. You will like it so much you will eat the leftover plastic shavings and rub them in your hair. It’s the dawning of a new age. Everything that is printed will be 3D, and everything that is 3D will be printed… or something.