Re: It's not the printer, it's the ink
We at 'All Things 3D' have been covering the 3D design, scanning and fabrication scene for the last year and half and I agree partially in your article, but I wonder how how many hours you have logged doing something using 3D technology? My co-host Chris Kopack and I both run 3D businesses and have seen the interest and demand increasing, as well as the budgets in the school systems, especially undergraduate schools. As with 2D printing, cost is initially high and quality was poor -- remember dot matrix printing? Now you can buy ink jet technology for less than $100 that rivals a photo lab's quality (okay, maybe not), so it is just a matter of time. Sure it is easy to say you can just buy something cheaper or easier to replace something that is broken, but I deal with many who have a product that is no longer in production, e.g. a vintage car, that a part that has deteriorated and they can no longer find it. The can bring the part, I can scan it, use a little 3D design to fill in the gaps, and in matter of hours, have a part that allowed this person to continue using the device, car, etc at a cost in their mind, well worth the expense. And this was done on a Makerbot, MakerGear M2, and Ultimaker 2 in a variety of materials from ABS, Nylon, Elastics, PET, and yes even cornstarch (PLA). I have even printed my own filling for a cavity that was later used to create a mold, as well as provide a full scale skull based on my wife's CT scans to help in the planning and removal of her golf ball size tumor above the left eye.
It is interesting how you bring up medical uses, which has received a lot of press over the last year, but the reality is that is still a few years off -- this is coming from some of the top bio-engineering researchers in the country. The tissue and organs you are seeing on TV and in the news are just husk with no way to support themselves since they have no capillary or waste removal system. Like AI, which was always just around the corner, the same thing holds true here. But that is not to say, as in AI, we do not have uses for what we created. Tissue and organ husks/tissue can be used to test drugs without affecting the host, e.g. cancer treatments.
You also mentioned 3D in Space. Believe it our not, we had a professor on recently who talked about his test (we showed the paper to prove it) that they were already testing all of this in the early 90s on the vomit comet. I sure hope the company behind this latest 3D venture did not charge NASA for data that was already obtained years ago.
In summary, as digital tools have progressed in changing how we fundamental design in 2D, they have also changed the way design in 3D. Now we have tools to do our own prototyping (I have a line of products called 4eyes, that have all been designed in Autodesk Fusion 360 and printed on several prosumer 3D printers as "alpha" version, and then on to professional printers from 3DS and Stratasys as my finished product. Without these tools, I would have had to resort to a machine shop, or spend thousands to do small run of injection molded parts. Before you become the Grinch who stole X-Mas, how many of those kids who cut their teeth on the Commodore 64 helped land a spacecraft on mars, or more recently a comet?
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