OOOOOhhhhh, it is ON. SolidSmack has been challenged… and when I say challenged, I mean we are pickin’ fights with anything or anyone. Mr. Joseph ‘Mass Customization’ Flaherty over at Replicator Blog recently wrote about Why 3D Printers Won’t Go Mainstream. That’s just yelling to have an opposing view thrown at it. So that’s what were about to do. A friendly throwdown in the field of the interweb to avoid any type of debilitating physical damage. We’ll take on Joseph’s viewpoint and look at just how 3D Printers will go mainstream. FIGHT ON BABY.

5 reason 3D Printing Will Not Go Mainstream

So why doesn’t Joseph think this crazy technology will go mainstream? Well, because…

  1. Publishing on Demand didn’t
  2. Plastics Are Complex
  3. 3D Printers and plastics are expensive
  4. Plastics are large and intricate
  5. Designing is hard, designing in 3D is REALLY hard


Some of those seem pretty valid, huh? So, were going to try tearing them apart with five reasons of our own. While he takes a present day look at the tech and why it isn’t going mainstream, We’ll take more of a ‘present to future’ look at why it will indeed. Here we go.

5 Reasons 3D Printing Will Go Mainstream

  1. More access to 3D Printers

    So currently, you have companies like EA,  creators of SPORE, teaming up with ZCorp to create and print your own personal creature. Well, forget about 3D Print on demand. Oh, it’ll certainly be around, but the one you have will be nearly as good for what you need – just like the ink, laser jet or photo printer you have now. Not everyone will have a need for one, but this won’t keep it from the mainstream markets.

  2. Cheaper Materials
    Plastics are actually pretty cheap as far as material goes. Desktop Factory puts the cost for their (yet to be released) desktop printer at $1.00/cubic inch. Generic plastics can start well below that, depending on quantity and the whole supply-demand thing. While it’s not as cheap as paper, it’s readily available. But there’s more types of material available for printing that just plastic. There’s silicone, starch, wax, plaster, epoxy, metal and even Playdoh and chocloate [[email protected]]. Who knows what other materials will be cheap and available. From Trash to Fab? Maybe.

  3. Smaller machines
    The first commercial laser printer available in 1976 was the IBM 3800. It was fast, but expensive and nearly the size of a small village. 30 years later and we can pay a little over $100 to shoot out 40+ pages per minute. To have something printed in 3D, it takes a big machine and many hours depending on the size. That won’t always be the case. Desktop Factory’s printer is down to 20×20/25. That reduces build volume, but not mainstream possibilities.

  4. More applications
    We limit the applications of 3D printed objects to components developed in engineering and design fields. While the idea of creating quick, cheaper protoypes lends itself well to these fields, they’re hardly the only industry that can use and benefit from the ability to quickly fab something. Gaming, as seen above, is using it. Jewelry designers like Anthony Tammaro are creating art. That hardly begins to touch the applications it will have once it hits the worldwide, billions of dollars per year craft industry.

    image via <a href="http://www.thinglab.co.uk/scanning_product.php?URL_=product_rapid_3dsystems_invision_hr&SubCatID_=85">ThingLabUK</a>

  5. Convenience
    A juicer is not the most convenient way of getting juice, but for those that want fresh-squeezed goodness, it’s wonderful and an extremely convenient alternative. It fulfills a need, solves a problem and has many options depending on the application. 3D printers have the same potential with the same scales of magnitude. Perhaps even one day, disposable, recyclable cups will be instantly ‘printed’ and some oranges juiced in the same machine. why not huh?

    image via <a href="http://renaware.portal.acrosonic.com/Our+Products/Juicer/default.aspx">RenaWare</a>

  6. So there Mr Joe. Take that. 😉 even though you probably know more than I’ll ever know about 3D printing and all that goes along with it, I think that’s a pretty good stab at why we can look forward to 3D printers in the mainstream. Oh and check this out…

Other reasons why 3D Printing could go mainstream:

  • It will happen in the background, unknown to consumer
  • It will solve more problems than it creates
  • Sites like Replicator will make it all the craze
  • It will be marketed as gift item on talk radio during the holidays
  • Kids breakfast cereal will contain 3D printing decoder rings

Which side are you on? 3D printers mainstream or not?

Think about it. Even now, ink jet printer material is not cheap, or rather the devices that hold the material. I recently bought a new printer because it cost less that getting new print cartridges. Will we get to that point with 3D Printers? Disposable 3D Printers? I’m convinced we’ll have similar devices, business models and off-the-shelf accessibility in the future. What do you think?

Feature image: Sad Keanu via Shapeways

Author

Josh is founder and editor at SolidSmack.com, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.