Why 3D Printing Is Overhyped (I Should Know, I Do It For A Living)

Everyone's now aware of 3D printing — they've read about it in the papers, on blogs or seen it on TV. The mentality now seems to be that, in the future, we'll be able to download our products or make them ourselves with CAD programs, apps and 3D scanners, then just print them out, either at home, or in localised print shops. Which in turn will supposedly decentralise manufacturing, bringing it back to the West.

But like the cupcake, Daft Punk’s latest album, or goji berries, 3D printing is severely overhyped — and I should know, because it’s what I do for a living.

All day, every day, I operate machines and speak to both the public and the industries about what their requirements are. In the last two years, I've made over 5000 models and answered over 10,000 emails from major corporations to crackpot inventors, designers to hobbyists. So, I feel that I've had a good deal of interaction with all levels of customers, and in turn, their awareness of 3D printing.

Thanks to images like this...

...people expect the world from 3D printers. This has been printed in one piece, which is in itself phenomenal to anyone who knows anything about manufacturing. However, it is made purely from a plaster powder and some inkjet ink for colouration. Joe Public on the other hand may see this and think it’s made from a combination of metals, plastics and rubbers. Sadly this is not the case. The thing is about as functional as your mum's figurine collection.

Other images show gloss plastics with complex shapes that have been produced on machines worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, and then have been meticulously post-processed for hours, days — even weeks — at great expense by highly-trained professionals. People see images or videos of 3D printed mechanisms, 3D printed tables, material 3D prints, and of course guns — and then they see that they can buy one for under $US800 and think "WOW!" I can do all this at home. This is the future!

And it is, in some respects — it’s going to open so many things up in the world. But that doesn't mean to say that you will do it yourself or that it will decentralise manufacturing, like the hype seems to suggest.

So, No Revolution?

The main issue lies with raised expectations, build quality, price and usability. So here we go, my list of reasons 3D printing isn't all you think it's cracked up to be.

People's expectations: They've seen a 3D printed violin; a crazy shoe, and a wrench (yawn) which actually works, straight out of a printer. A very, very expensive, high-end printer which uses lasers or resins. These people think that they can create objects as well without much input or training, on a machine which costs $US800 or less. Imagine you'd lived on a planet that had never seen a car before, and all of a sudden the newspapers start reporting about the car, a vehicle which can do up to 400km/h, carrying up to 10 people, and cost as little as $US300. All true, but as we know, that’s not the full story.

The name: '3D printing' makes it sounds so easy, doesn't it? Do you think if it were still called 'rapid prototyping', people would be saying "I can't wait to get a rapid prototyper in my house'?

Strength: 3D printed parts are not as strong as traditionally-manufactured parts. Their layer-by-layer technique of manufacturing is both their biggest strength and their greatest weakness. In something like injection moulding, you have a very even strength across the part, as the material is of a relatively consistent material structure. In 3D printing, you are building it in layers — this means that it has laminate weaknesses as the layers don't bond as well in the Z axis as they do in the X and Y plane. This is comparable to a Lego wall — you place all the bricks on top of each other, and press down: feels strong, but push the wall from the side and it breaks really easily.

Surface finish: People hear you can print in plastic, so they visualise a plastic item. This is likely to be gloss and smooth. They don't visualise a matt finish with rough layer lines all over. Many companies offer a 'smooth' surface finish, but often neglect to add the suffix 'for 3D printing'. You can also post-process parts, but this generally involves labour and/or chemicals like acetone (really nasty stuff) and loses detail and tolerance on parts.

Cost: Cost is based on material used, so big things are expensive, and small things are cheap. That's it. Nothing to do with complexity, and nothing to do with number of parts. The beauty of it is that there is no tooling — this opens up a world of opportunity to the designer, the creator and the hacker, but does it really help people who just want a replacement door knob? There is also no economy of scale, so one item is $X and a thousand items are $1000s. So, producing anything in bulk that is bigger than your fist seems to be a waste of time.

The materials are also much more expensive than buying just raw material, with the cheapest being about $US50 per kg, ranging up to $US500 for some resins. So you’re not really making a saving here, I’m afraid to say. Sadly for every request we have for a full sized Daft Punk helmet, there's an equal number of disappointed Daft Punk fans out there, when they find out how much it will cost to build.

Speed: Many people say that 3D printing is quick — this is another omission of a suffix — this time 'for manufacturing processes'. Items regularly take hours to print, even days. You can speed this up by making the layers thicker, but as soon as you do this, you lose your surface finish quality. The notion of "but it'll get faster in the future" is not necessarily true, as we are limited by the chemical properties of materials such as ABS and PLY — these materials can only be extruded so fast and at such a rate before you start to destroy the properties of the part. This is happening with the top-end machines right now for FDM (Fluid Deposition Modelling).

Usability: This is huge. To print something, you need a CAD model. Getting that is hard. Really hard. When you write a letter, you don't just click "print", do you? You have to actually type it and check it for mistakes. Now this is the same for 3D printing, but a million items harder. So how can you do this, I hear you ask?

1. Learn CAD: Advisable, but difficult. You not only have to learn how the program works (it’s a bit like Photoshop; give it a week and you can draw something, but give it three years and you’ll learn it inside out), but you also have to learn how to design. You need to acknowledge things like tolerances — i.e. a 10mm shaft will not fit in a 10mm hole.

2. 3D Scanning: Great if you only want to scan the outer surface of a part (they cannot scan the inside of items), and if you don't want any driven dimensions. The idea of scanning a broken part and 3D printing it is a massive over-engineered approach to replacing a part when there are inventions like superglue or silicone moulding (much better smoother and stronger way to produce duplicates). Also it's not as easy as it sounds, and not cheap either. You can get something like an Xbox Kinect and rig it up as a scanner; that is if you want an incredibly abstract version of what you want, or you can get a pro to do it at a cost.

3. Downloading 3D files: Every day a new 3D model library opens up on the internet. These instantly seem to get populated with the same 3D files that are on all the other sites. These files are 99 per cent unmoderated, meaning that they are not guaranteed to be 3D printable. Many of them are made for animation/rendering and are flat surfaces with images projected onto them. These aren't printable. Even the major 3D printing libraries are full of files with errors and/or have been designed with little respect to the capabilities and cost of 3D printers.

4. Photo-based apps: Like scanning, only worse.

Example of a scan and print at home. (These will get better though.)

Machine range: So you can 3D print in hundreds of different types of materials, but can they all be done in your living room? Absolutely not. People seem to forget that there are loads of different types of 3D printers, all of which have advantages and disadvantages. FDM, the main consumer form of 3D printers, extrudes ABS or PLY in a relatively safe manor, with the materials cooling down quickly, meaning the parts are safe to touch straight off the machine (and leave little in the way of mess). This is definitely not true for any other type of printer. Resins, though higher detail, are really messy and expensive; powder-based printers are really messy, and sometimes explosive (never make the 3D printed gun on a powder-based printer); others operate at high temperatures or produce masses of waste. This basically leaves us with FDM (which by the way has the worst surface finish) as the only really suitable technology for the home.

Materials: Generally speaking, you can only print in one material, and this is generally a plastic. Now look around you…how many items are in your room that are made up of a single piece of plastic — just plastic, nothing else? I can see two things; a cup and a lens cap. The cup cost a few cents. The lens cap was expensive, but requires very high accuracy and acute clips (not great on a 3D print thanks to the layers causing weaknesses). Would I 3D print it? No. Most items in the house are made up from multiple materials, and most of them are both metal and plastic. Those two cannot be made together as their melting temperatures are hundreds, if not thousands of degrees apart. I'd not like to smelt in my living room either.

A great analogy I once read was the comparison of 3D printers to the bread making machine. In the '90s, bread makers suddenly became affordable and everyone got one; they then went and spent $US4-7 on all the ingredients to make bread. They followed the instructions and left the bread cooking overnight. In the morning they came down to the wonderful smell of freshly cooked bread; bread that they had created using a machine, some materials and some time. They smugly sat eating their bread thinking "this is the best loaf of bread ever". Two weeks later the bread machine is in the cupboard and they've gone back to buying their carbs from the shop. I'd say that 99 per cent of the population would rather go out and buy a loaf of bread for a few dollars, rather than making one for triple the price, despite it being more rewarding.

A Lover, Not A Hater

After all that, I bet you think I hate 3D printing, and that you think I think it has no future. Not at all. I'm obsessed with it and know it has a huge future — I wouldn't be committing every day of my life to it if I didn't wholeheartedly believe this.

The future for consumer 3D printing lies in the potential for people to create, invent and share ideas. Since starting this business I've helped hundreds of designers make their ideas come to life, and am proudly watching as they arrive in the marketplace. These products are now being mass produced and not 3D printed, so the quality is much higher.

3D printing will continue to grow in areas like the prototyping market, low-volume production runs (on very high-end machines), medical, aerospace — the list goes on. But as an everyday household object? I'm not convinced.

We are still firmly in the honeymoon period with 3D printing — we're in awe of it and what it can do. But when you look at just the parts produced and not the way they were produced, printed parts are a long way behind in terms of quality, and when there often is no cost advantage, Captain Everyday will always go for the mass-produced one. Boy, do I hope I'm wrong, though.

Founder of 3D printing company 3D Print UK, Nick Allen and his team work in South London, producing thousands of models for individuals and corporate clients.

Originally published on Gizmodo UK.


Comments

    To anyone that has done any real research on 3D printing these would be all known factors, if you are silly enough to buy something like this without research I doubt this article will help. :)

    Great synopsis of 3D printing as it stands currently.

    Last edited 18/05/13 9:41 am

    It seems like a rather unnecessary distinction for a site like Gizmodo. People here are likely already aware of the current scope of 3D printing technology. It's where the technology is heading that people like us are excited about. Experimental printers that can print metals, circuit boards, synthetic tissue, proteins and stem cells. These are all things that exist right now, tested and working to some extent, in labs and research centres.

    The average joe might be overhyped about 3D printing, but the average joe doesn't usually read technology and gadget blogs. For the rest of us, what's exciting isn't where the commercial grade technology is at now, it's where it will be in 10 years. And given what's being successfully accomplished in labs right now, the hype is well-deserved.

    This guy is just enjoying playing devil's advocate. Every time something new comes along you also get a slew of articles saying why it'll never work, or never become commonplace, etc...

    Same old same old here.

    People’s expectations: even with realistic expectations 3D printing is a huge seachange.
    The name: who cares.
    Strength: true of every material and every manufacturing process. There are still uncountable suitable applications for 3D printing (I'm a mechanical engineer).
    Surface finish: in most cases this isn't going to be enough to stop people wanting to print.
    Cost: this will improve. And the only comparison that really matters is the comparison with retail price anyway.
    Speed: not a big issue. People don't print on a whim to immediately use the result.
    Usability: Learning CAD really isn't that hard. IMHO every kid should learn it in school. Anyway the main source of designs will be shared files online. No insurmountable problem to be seen here.
    Machine Range: The ones suitable for the living room will be there. The ones suitable for the garage will be there. The ones suitable for small business will be there. The ones suitable for large business will be there. A place for everything, and everything in its place.
    Materials: You should be thinking: how many things can I see are there that COULD be made entirely of plastic. It'll bet that's quite a significant number.

      "Learning CAD really isn't that hard"

      For basic 2D sketches, eg house floor plans YES. 3D modeling that you'll need (including suitable tolerances for moving parts) NO.

      If CAD was so easy to learn & use there wouldn't be contract draughtsman earning 1k/day here in Perth!

        Going to have to assume you never learnt CAD yourself Pops.

        3D modelling is NOT hard to learn. Kids can learn it (I've taught them myself).

        Suitable tolerances are an important part of a design, but they're nothing whatsoever to do with modelling a part in 3D.
        Go ahead and say design is difficult to do well, and I won't disagree. Modelling a part in 3D using CAD, however, is in the most part fairly easy.

        As for your draughtsman comment, ease has nothing to do with it: picking up garbage is easy, but we still employ others to do it.
        The high rate of pay for draughtsmen is because their expertise is more than simply drawing a part in 3D, and because kids AREN'T taught CAD in school (they should be), so there's very little competition for their positions.

      Not only that but as time goes by if it is accepted en mass, more consumer friendly programs will be created that arent as intimidating as CAD is.

        I'm a third year Mechanical Engineering student and I totally agree about CAD not being difficult. I played with Pro-Desktop a little bit in High school to manufacture a key-ring but only opened Solidworks for the first time 6 weeks ago. I am already comfortable making complex assemblies including but not limited to designing a gearbox. If someone is going to spend the money on a 3D printer, then I am sure they can spend a few days learning the basics. If not, then they can stick to printing downloaded iPhone case's.

          That's really missing the point there in about as big a way that they missed the first trench run...

          The point is, that as the printers become more readily available over the years, companies will want laymen to be able to use it. Though you yourself find CAD to be easy to use, companies will want the lowest common denominator to use the program, so to that extent, they will create point and click programs such as the scanning software found with printer/scanners these days. Fifteen to twenty years ago that software was pretty cumbersome and archaic in comparison, now, its easy as piss. The same will happen here. Eventually software will be designed (that won't be as powerful as using something as advanced and as highly detailed as CAD most likely, granted) that will allow the laymen to point, scan with something, adjust in a basic manner possibly and scan with all but three or four buttons and that's about it. Taking away the difficulty of everything for the laymen and making it accessible after all, is part of how you make things mass-marketable.

    Thanks for the article Nick, as well as pouring cold water on the "hype" - you gave me an explanation of the whole process that I (someone not involved in this area) could grasp.

      Indeed, I always appreciate articles like this, you pour the 'sensible wates' on the 'hype fire' and you come up with a more balanced 'reality' of where the situation is at. It's definitely appreciated.

    Good article, thanks!

    I myself, although remaining largely skeptical, have toyed with the idea of purchasing a 3D printer to see what all the hype is about.

    I think you've just saved me a ton of money and frustration!

    I have only ever wanted one to print out Warhammer models to paint. I'm easy pleased.

      Yep, I immediately thought of all you hairy bastards with your little army men (and dice)

    CAD will definitely beyond the grasp of some people. I tried to learn it in high school and found it immensely difficult -- and I'm a reasonably intelligent person and also very fast at learning most software.

    That shy guy model you printed on the right looks great!!
    The original on the left looks so plain

    3D Printing is the Plastic Messiah!

    They're fun, no doubt about it. I've got an older Makerbot myself that's been fairly heavily modified by the parts I printed to improve its accuracy and speed.

    The biggest problem with the sub-$2000 FDM machines is printing complex objects with overhangs and the like. Sure, you can print support structures that you cut or peel away after printing, but those have an impact on the final quality of the finished part. The simplest thing to do usually is to break objects up into components that can be printed quickly and easily, then reassemble them afterwards. It's still a little gimmicky, but for artists, prototypers, board/miniature gamers, home-automation freaks and the like, it's a lot of fun and it's only going to get better from here on out.

    Last edited 18/05/13 3:11 pm

    i would be using these to model custom parts for my car and then get the 3d print moulded for cast injection. start producing custom mods. So i was never in that lala land thinking i can just start printing working copies of everything in my house haha. They still have their major benefits. I would like to see a CNC machine get made to the scale and price of these things but... :)

    Silly article for a tech site...

    I am in no way involved in engineering or manufacturing, but this article contained very little 'new' info for anyone even moderately well read in tech blogs.

    I think being involved in industry has created a kind of myopia in the author - similar to how doctors tend to assume their patients have zero medical literacy and become affronted when unexpectedly engaged in their own language. Heaps of people know CAD... and heaps more will teach themselves. To me; the whole appeal of the 3D printer was the DIY element and the way an 'some nerd' could end up manufacturing some seriously cool stuff with nothing more than a few thousand dollars, time to spare, and the good fortune of a little unexplored aptitude. Rather than pouring cold water on the hype; it seems to me more a case of pouring cold water on the potential.

      coupla points pal.
      1. 3-D is not tech according to you, who is neither an engineer nor a manufacturer. (Might be more useful to tell us what you actually ARE, coz the list of what you ARE NOT is going to be slightly longer)
      2. Yes, this is tech blog, not a dedicated news site. (I know! A tech site that reports on tech being used currently, in development and retrospective pieces.
      3. Your use of the standard value "heaps" may not be on the same scale I use. Perhaps "heaps" in your vernacular is roughly the number of students who were in your TAFE course.
      4. Who have you quoted using the phrase "some nerd", or is it single marks (the lazy, sensation-seeking journalist's way of implying ownership of comments wrongly). I guess you are not employed as a journalist either.

      Christ!

    Meh, I've got a 3D printed part sitting in front of me right now that I printed myself. It's only good for the simplistic purpose it was printed for - a visualisation tool for students. The printer we have is prohibitively expensive to be useful for any home purpose. The writing is on the wall though, these first generation printers have unleashed the imagination and expectations of consumers and the printer manufacturers will deliver. When people are able to start routinely printing useful multicopter frames and the like demand will skyrocket. When they start printing electronics and reinforced structures they will be a game changer. 3D printing has to start somewhere, it has started pretty much now as a consumer gimmick as well as a high-end prototyping tool, and it will without any doubt become vital for consumers to manufacturers. It's to be thought of like the PC and internet revolutions.

    I'm definitely no expert.. But I find fault with some of the fundamentals of your argument which seems more like a rant than an article.

    1. newspapers start reporting about the car, a vehicle which can do up to 400km/h, carrying up to 10 people, and cost as little as $US300. All true, but as we know, that’s not the full story.

    Maybe don't use an extremely hyperbolic example, then follow it with "all true".. Makes no sense.

    2. A bit of a grammar nazi point - but you refer to 'suffixes' to phrases many times. This is not correct, you might mean it is missing an addendum or something similar.

    3. The name: I think you're confusing the hacker community that is actually excited about this technology with regular consumers who even know/care - who are definitely in the minority as far as i'm concerned.

    And naturally, all hackers would LOVE something called a rapid prototyper.. Are you kidding me? heh!

    4. Materials: Most items in the house are made up from multiple materials, and most of them are both metal and plastic. Those two cannot be made together as their melting temperatures are hundreds, if not thousands of degrees apart.

    Correct me if i'm wrong, but as I understood it industrial 3d printing for, say, automotive printing, uses special solvents together with materials like metal to allow them to layered as fluid which then evaporates? Still not something i'd want at home, but I can't imagine a metal printer that operated how you describe.. Either it'd be like a giant welder working in layers, or it would be literally molten metal which would need to be poured into a mold? *shrug*

    5. I’d say that 99 per cent of the population would rather go out and buy a loaf of bread for a few dollars, rather than making one for triple the price

    Er.. Baking your own bread, from a machine or not, using premixed bread mix or not even - is incredibly cheap. It might be $7-8 at the shop.. But that buys you enough ingredients to make probably 10-15 loaves of bread.. You're like a runaway analogy machine or something.

    6. Finally - I think you have quite a distorted view of what people who are actually likely to do anything with 3D printing, or what people would actually care about. One of the only people i've met who was interested in the topic wanted it purely for making his own warhammer/collectables for example, and was saying he would personally spend upto 2 grand on a machine to accomplish it and was still fully prepared to hand finish every item.

    In your position (from the sounds of it) i'm sure you get plenty of starry eyed dreamers coming through.. But that happens in nearly every industry, and wouldn't really say its a fair representation of who the users would be, or what their attitudes would be toward it.

    Kind of like being a mechanic - i'm sure they get plenty of people from every age group coming through "Oh I really want to buy this old car and fix it up" only to be told "yeah that will cost 80 thousand dollars" and go away, dreams still intact but still not able to call themselves car restorers.

    Last edited 18/05/13 5:42 pm

    I think you have set the realities of the technology in its place for today but much of the hype is about what it can do tomorrow. Things such as 3C printing dwellings to reduce the cost and worker injury that are common now.

    A CNC is just something that automates a tool. In additive 3D printing that tools is a plastic or resin extruder but any tool can be used with CNC.

    I am now making my first CNC. My focus is on minimising cost. I will use mostly linear materials that can be purchased from a hardware store. It's purpose is to LASER burn paint off PCB's to leave an etch mask, a PCB drill for pin through components and a LASER stencil cutter for SMD solder paste.

    My second CNC will be for metal micro-milling for the sole purpose of creating the parts (from cheap materials) for the third CNC.

    3D printing is in its infancy and while there is some hype, there is also much that legitimate about expectations for the future.

    I am a 41 yr old man. been printing for 20 yrs now.Looking for a new career.I have no post secondary education. i am very interested in this 3D printing.Looking at possibly in the medical or auto. What kind and how much schooling would i need to get into this field of work.(PONDERING). what to do.what trade schools. DO YOU HAVE TO BE A ROCKET SCIENTIST? will someone be kind enough to put me in the right path,PLEASE. thank you.

    Lol i loved the daft punk reference

    Thanks for the article. It served its purpose in warning old nerds like me of the vagaries to which I agree. As you probably know, 3D layered printing has been around for more than 20 years but only just broken the price barrier. It was, and still is, used for modelling - far away from the backyard. However, I agree also, having broken the price barrier it will advance at a rapid rate as it reaches common usage. I would guess the method, materials and software will improve dramatically over the next five years. I watch with considerable interest because despite the criticism of the hype, there is a good chance it will become reality one day - but not tomorrow. Would love to have a play but I think she who must be obeyed would alter my private parts!

    Having purchased a reprap kit I'd have to agree with the author. Its nerd material and will go the same way as virtual reality did.

    I find myself totally agreeing and totally disagreeing at the same time!

    I've got my first 3d metal print on order right now (maybe...), and it's been a frustrating experience of spending a long time designing it in accordance with the guidelines, then being told, basically, "Nope, we tried and we can't do it, try again, and hey, we can't tell you exactly what you need to change, just.. change it!". This comes on top of all of the issues I knew about in advance which the author doesn't hold back going into.

    That said, while I agree with some of his main themes - namely, 3d printing will never be a replacement for mass production precisely because it's not *mass* production, and will never have the economies of scale of mass production - I think he's wrong to play down how much 3d printing is in its infancy or to cast it off as a novelty (like the breadmaker analogy - makes precisely *one* thing, you can never change what it makes, and that one thing is available mass-produced everywhere on Earth - can you think of something that's more unlike what's being talked about with 3d printing?).

    3d printing is in its infancy. Anyone remember what graphics used to look like when printed out on early dot matrix printers? Heck, rather like today's generation of 3d prints, really! Full of lines, laughably slow, loud as all get-out, awful resolution, poor "finish", on and on. People progressively looked at each of the problems and chose the best solution for each of them. And there *are* solutions for each of the issues he raised - for a number, there are many possible solutions.

    Take the "lines" issue, for example, because it's a well known issue with 3d printers since they print in layers. Well, first off, from the get-go, lines will decrease as resolution increases - that's automatic. Secondly, why is it not possible for a next gen printer to rotate the object its printing, to print flat as much as possible and minimize voxelization? Why is it not possible for a 3d printer to not have an automatic finishing stage built in? Heck, why is it not possible that a 3d printing technique will be developed where the layers automatically tend to round themselves on the surface? There's no shortage of potential solutions, and I find it grossly implausible that 3d printing will stay universally "liney" forever.

    The same applies to parts that can't be printed together but need to be fitted together (dissimilar materials, free movement requirements, etc). Why is it so implausible that a printer can't do that? I mean, printers are already positioning print heads to absurdly tiny accuracies. Is the concept of *holding* something while positioning it so grossly unreasonable?

    Metals and some kinds of plastics outgas with certain processes (but not all)? Fine, that's what a flue scrubber is for. Devices in your house deal with all sorts of dangerous stuff - lasers thousands of times more powerful than necessary to blind you, highly poisonous and combustible if not outright explosive liquids stored in multi-gallon quantities, suffocating gasses, etc - and, most notably, electricity itself. You've got this deadly current in the walls all over your house and all sorts of devices using, many which produced with shoddy qc.. and people aren't dropping dead left and right. Why? Because of safety precautions. Why can't one do the same with something that might outgas, why is it so unreasonable to scrub it? And that's assuming you need to even use a tech which has a potentially hazardous fume to begin with.

    And the concept of making files - did it not occur to you that manufacturers could simply build a "share" feature into every printer that if the user chooses "yes", their model automatically gets shared with everyone else in the world? It seems to me incomprehensible that if 3d printers became widespread, 3d libraries wouldn't similarly, even *without* such enabling features. And yeah, not many people know 3d software. Tell me, how many people do you think knew graphics-editing and word processing software before 2d printers? And unlike most 2d printing, I would expect that most 3d printing would be things that aren't unique.

    I could go on, but my point is, I don't see anything he listed as real constraints. It looks to me pretty much the standard issues for any new tech, and each has multiple solutions.

    Hi,
    What if you have scanned in and 3d printed some automotive small front lower car valences.
    Would reinforcing them, in areas, with carbon Kevlar cloth, then make them viable, actual usable parts on the vehicle?

    used to be a time when business people were visionaries unlike nick allen. if business people ever are visionaries again mass production will be a thing of the past as will built in obsolescence making 3d printers even more important for the future. most mass produced items, even today, are long out dated before they reach the consumer.

    I like to think of famous quotes right about now. Like, "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." by Thomas Watson, the chairman of IBM, in 1943 or the, "The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys." by Sir William Preece, chief engineer of the British Post Office, in 1876 and last but not least, "With over 50 foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn't likely to carve out a big slice of the U.S. market." quoted in Business Week, August 2, 1968.

    There must big price difference in bread making ingredients between countries. We have a breadmaker and have used it for over half a year now. I still make a loaf every 1-2 days. It costs less than $1 a loaf (in Canada), including electricity. (Costs $2 in the grocery store when on sale.) So I don't think the breadmaking analogy is very good.

    The rest sounds good though. I would love to use more 3D printed plastic parts but they simply aren't strong enough. Are the 3D printed ceramic parts also weaker? They would obviously be weaker than sintered compacted powder, but I'm not sure about traditional wet ceramics.

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