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back to article 3D printing: 'Third industrial revolution' or a load of old cobblers?

Readers of The Register with their fingers on the throbbing technopulse of innovation will have noticed that - if the hype is anything to go by - 3D printing is about to redefine paradigms, rewrite/defenestrate/burn textbooks and give the unwashed masses the power to print iPhone covers at will, thereby shaking the whole notion …

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Pirate

Ho Hum

In our workship, we've only used the 3D printer for printing many model Yoda's when we were stonned.

Your millage may vary.

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Coat

Re: stonned

Were you stoned when you wrote that?

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Re: Ho Hum

I know of a lot of custom shops doing plenty of business with those 3D printers.

I can only guess your company isn't marketing your services well enough or lacks the imagination to properly capitalize upon the capabilities of the device.

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Coat

Re: stonned

Were you stoned when you wrote that?

He may have meant stunned.

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Yes, a "solution looking for a problem"

I remember reading those same words about lasers. I didn't think I'd ever own a laser device and now I probably have more than I realise.

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Re: Yes, a "solution looking for a problem"

Outside of disk drives, where are all these lasers? Pointers don't count. Neither do sharks with lasers of the "frikkin" variety.

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Re: Yes, a "solution looking for a problem"

Printers. High-speed optical networking. Making those holographic anti-counterfeiting things on bank cards.

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Re: Yes, a "solution looking for a problem"

The death ray machine I'm building in the hollowed out volcano under my shed.

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Re: Yes, a "solution looking for a problem"

One per shark

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Re: Yes, a "solution looking for a problem"

> where are all these lasers

LASERs will (are?) like electric motors. Not something you own per se, but an "invisible" component inside something else.

However, just like electric motors didn't make an "industrial revolution", neither will LASERs or 3D printers. However, given time, they might be incorporated into things or machines that do gain widespread acceptance.

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Re: Yes, a "solution looking for a problem"

Circuit board prototyping may be a killer app for 3d printing. The process now is either messy and crappy (if you do it yourself) or stupidly expensive (if you use a prototyping service).

I do some fiddling with atmel chips (none of this arduino business for me), and I would LOVE to be able to whip out a board on a printer to try stuff out. If it could do two-sided boards, I'd buy one right now.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yes, a "solution looking for a problem"

oshpark.com - it's far, far from expensive, I think the cheapest I've done is about £2. There's a few weeks turnaround to the UK though.

I had a look at this printer but the smallest trace it can do is something like 0.5mm which isn't going to cut it for anything at a scale used by any reasonably interesting components (spent a lovely 4 hours with a solder paste syringe, needle and magnifying glass last night assembling a large board with lots of 0.65mm pitch components - I'm getting too old for this shit).

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Re: Yes, a "solution looking for a problem"

"Outside of disk drives, where are all these lasers"

is that yoda speak for 'laser are outside disk drives' ?

If so I agree - there are no lasers in disk drives.

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Re: Yes, a "solution looking for a problem"

Neither do sharks with lasers of the "frikkin" variety.

Don't be ridiculous. Of course sharks with frikkin lasers count. But then so do the BluRay player and two consoles I own. Oh, and my 'death ray' that I use to amuse my kids*. More practical applications are range finders for surveyors, etching in things, eye surgery, and blasting missiles out of the sky.

*Apparently the ability to pop a balloon and light a match at a distance qualifies it as a death ray, though I'm not quite sure why. My kids think it's the coolest thing since sliced cheese though. I'm sure that in a pinch I could use it to start a camp fire, but I think it'd be quicker to use one of the friction methods of fire building I know.

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WTF?

Re: Yes, a "solution looking for a problem"

Laser engravers, laser cutting, laser machining of thin materials without deformation... There are lots of modern lasers out there doing serious work. Plus all the lasers the doctors and attendees of a medical-type seminar use for serious procedures to zapping a stray Kardashian nose hair.

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Happy

Re: Yes, a "solution looking for a problem"

> Plus all the lasers the doctors and attendees of a medical-type seminar use for serious procedures to zapping a stray Kardashian nose hair.

Not only that, we have local business promising to help with giving up smoking with lasers.

I hate think how that works. Something like this I imagine:

"Do you want a fag?"

"Yes" Zzzzap! "Ow!!"

"Do you want a fag?"

"Yes" Zzzzap! "Ow!!"

Rinse and repeat.

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Re: Yes, a "solution looking for a problem"

> Circuit board prototyping may be a killer app for 3d printing.

I agree with this.

Etching is such a pain and requires hazardous chemicals.

Plain board/etch resist/etching/rinsing/cleaning. A right pain in the arse.

Unless you do a lot of it though I can't see it being worthwhile to have a machine yourself.

Could make it cheap to get a small shop to do it for you though.

And better for the environment. If the copper/silver is applied rather than being removed, would be a lot more economical since copper and silver are pretty dear all told.

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Re: Yes, a "solution looking for a problem"

I'd say the big caveat right now is that our current 3d printers are the equivalent of Orville and Wilbur's first flight at Kitty Hawk. Not necessarily impressive except to visionaries. But after future developments we'll wonder how we ever got along without them.

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Re: Yes, a "solution looking for a problem"

Last board I made I used the following

Laser print the layout to std paper

"Iron" layout to the PCB

Carefully in a sink "dissolve" away the paper, leaving the plastic behind

etch the copper board using a solution of

white vinegar

Hydrogen Peroxide (~5% stock from the store)

table salt

The etch is slow as hell; it took an hour or two, but other than the hydrogen peroxide ... no dangerous chemicals (and at 2-5% the peroxide ain't that dangerous)

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Re: Yes, a "solution looking for a problem"

The alternative to etching or a 3d printer for DIY PCB making might be some form of milling machine - but that's not exactly home-tech either - and you could only make doublesided boards at best.

(I'd have killed to be able to make 4 (or more) layer boards when prototyping digital control circuits for use in RF systems n the 1980s)

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Re: Yes, a "solution looking for a problem"

The fiber optic cable coming to my home is laser driven. As it's two way, there is a laser driving this very traffic to you.

Twice, as I also ran fiber between switches in my house.

My drives, of course. I have measurement devices that use lasers to indicate alignment.

I have a saw guide that is laser.

I have a laser sight for my pistol sitting in the drawer (my dot scope is better than that laser, so it was retired).

I have laser pointers for meetings.

That is for starters.

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Re: Yes, a "solution looking for a problem"

"I'm sure that in a pinch I could use it to start a camp fire, but I think it'd be quicker to use one of the friction methods of fire building I know."

Know the same methods. Used them, am reasonably proficient with them.

I'll stick with a match or lighter.

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Re: Yes, a "solution looking for a problem"

Lasers are often used for cutting sheet metal (having no mechanical link between the workpeice and the tool is a good thing- you don't have to build your X-Y mechanism to withstand torque and vibration), and for etching serial numbers and the like. There is also a hard-wearing marking technique, where a chemical is sprayed onto a piece and activated by a laser, leaving text or a logo - the remaining chemical is then washed off.

Laser measuring and surveying is also very useful. '3D scanner'.

Lasers are also used to calibrate in real time the adjustable mirrors of ground-based telescopes to adjust for atmospheric interference.

Lasers can also be used for a form of 'additive manufacturing' nee 'rapid prototyping' called sterolithography (the process that gives .STL files their name) in which two laser beams activate a photo-cured resin at the point of their intersection.

They make your sent-from-the-future killer cyborg look cool (though in 1984 the laser sight on Arnie's handgun had to be powered by a hidden battery and cable running up his sleeve).

They might, maybe, one day, possibly, play a part in commercial fusion energy production.

Not sure if if mentioning Jean Micheal Jarre and the Ozric Tentacles helps my case here.

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Re: Yes, a "solution looking for a problem"

"Outside of disk drives..."

Here - since you're LAZY, I googled it for you:

http://bit.ly/1ixyPG1

Search string used: EVERYDAY USES OF LASERS

Read. Educate yourself. Stop being so lazy. Stop being so uneducated. Stop being such a luddite.

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Re: Yes, a "solution looking for a problem"

> The etch is slow as hell; it took an hour or two, but other than the hydrogen peroxide ... no dangerous chemicals (and at 2-5% the peroxide ain't that dangerous)

Heh, I didn't know that worked. I will give it a try next time.

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Re: Yes, a "solution looking for a problem"

Outside of disk drives, where are all these lasers?"

Off the top of my head, CD player, BluRay player, spirit level, ultrasonic "tape" measure (for aiming), chop saw, handheld circular saw and a Xmas "disco" light display that puts red and green laser "stars" all over the room ;-)

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Re: Yes, a "solution looking for a problem"

"If it could do two-sided boards, I'd buy one right now."

Based on the description of printing onto a suitable substrate, it's not 3D printing anyway, it's more like inkjet printing with conductive ink so flipping over the substrate with careful alignment means double sided PCBs are no more difficult than current methods of "at home" manufacture. No through hole plating so you still have to make sure to solder both sides of the relevant component holes and/or use through hole pins.

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Re: Yes, a "solution looking for a problem"

" our current 3d printers are the equivalent of Orville and Wilbur's first flight at Kitty Hawk"

No that would be the 3D printers we had in the mid 1980's.

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Re: Yes, a "solution looking for a problem"

spent a lovely 4 hours with a solder paste syringe, needle and magnifying glass last night

Have a look at (or through) the Donegan Optivisor.

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Re: Yes, a "solution looking for a problem"

@FartingHippo

Three of those lasers that no one owns are in

- a laser distance meter

- a crossline laser used for marking vertical and horizontal lines

- a spirit level with laser marker.

which I regularly use, putting up a couple of walls and related rebuilding activities.

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Re: Yes, a "solution looking for a problem"

And they've been at the Kitty Hawk stage for a while. The improvements since the mid-1990s are modest in most respects except cost, which (for some units) have dropped by 2 orders of magnitude.

However, the proliferation and popularization of 3D printers compared to the 1990s suggests (to me) that the technology is on the verge of something big. Maybe a popped market bubble, maybe a Model T, but something big.

I think what 3D printers need is a combination of 3D printing technologies to takeoff. Right now, the inexpensive units most people play with are just depositing plastic. When you get systems that can print multiple materials, like the high-end industrial systems depositing steel, titanium, and aluminum, and match that to plastic printers. Not so everyone can build killbots (which would be cool), but at that point you can start building a lot of everyday household items. Print a new plumbing pipe, print a new shower head, print a new screw - that'd be handy. And if it can help a household like that, it could be very useful in the hands of skilled machinist.

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Black Helicopters

Re: Yes, a "solution looking for a problem"

You make it sound like lasers don't do anything in the modern world. How 'bout laser speed guns the policed use ? - or laser pointers? - or laser TVs? w/DLP chips that make color wheels and bulb light sources obsolete? - Laser designation - not only for the Armed Forces anymore - 3D metal printers use high heat lasers to melt the metal sintering process? - laser leveling and surveying equipment - thank God we don't have to use metal tape with a temperature probe on it anymore! - Laser lasik? so people can see again! - laser range finders - laser printers - geeze! I might get dizzy thinking of all the improvements to modern day living!

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Megaphone

Re: Yes, a "solution looking for a problem"

Yep, and i bet I and a lot of people own a lot of laser technology:

Laser ROM readers

Laser sights

Laser LED for HDTV light source

Laser levelers for doing carpentry work

Laser garage door limiter sensors

Laser range finders

If I thought a second longer than some posters on here I'd literally have a full page of stuff here on just what one person uses!!

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Culturally it's great

The 3D printing world feels the way computing did in the 1980s, with bedroom hobbyists alongside huge multinational companies.It's great fun to be around and well worth poping into iMakr near to The reg office to have a tinker.

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I used to be a naysayer.

Then a friend printed a Dalek.

Now I can see their value.

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Right now I can see only specialist application

Medical prosthetics, specialised jewellery, some types of models ... can't see it ever being fast or scalable enough to replace most current industrial processes.

Mind you I confidently predicted, pre Direct 3D, that Windows would never be fast enough for gaming and we'd always have to boot to DOS. So WTF do I know.

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Re: Right now I can see only specialist application

True, but there are a lot of specialist requirements out there. One use I can see is making obsolete components. Say for example your company still has a use for a dot matrix printer (true case). One tiny but vital part breaks and you can't get it fixed because nobody makes that little thing anymore. That's a trivial example, but there is a whole world of difficult to fix machinery out there.

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Re: Right now I can see only specialist application

Sandman, I totally agree. I reckon the 3d printer will be a common tool in the garage when folk realize that it can be used to make those annoying, easily breakable/ losable plastic bits that *every* modern product seems to have that no-one sells the replacements for.

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Re: Right now I can see only specialist application

Not convinced about there being one in every garage, but I could see self-service machines in supermarkets or DIY stores.

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Re: Right now I can see only specialist application

I'm thinking of the attachments for hoover hoses.

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Gimp

Re: I'm thinking of the attachments for hoover hoses.

Whatever floats your boat...

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Re: Right now I can see only specialist application

Agreed, exactly what I'm waiting for...

So when the door catch breaks again on the washing machine, I can print a proper fit for purpose replacement rather than than ending up bodging something and ultimately giving up and buying a new washing machine...

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Re: Right now I can see only specialist application

One-offs and prototypes or replacing things that are no longer made.

In its current form, it is too slow and too expensive to be taken as a serious manufacturing tool. It will be interesting to see how they progress in the future, but I don't think they will ever be economical enough to replace injection molding of mass produced articles. For short runs, yes, but millions? Probably not.

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Re: Right now I can see only specialist application

Well not too long ago, you went to a "copyshop" , where as a student you could type out your presentations on a "computer" using a "word processor" , which then allowed you to "print" said documents, and then whip them through a photocopier for the required number of copies.

Was sort of expensive, but well worth it for the more important stuff, like the things that determined your course grades, and in the end cheaper than plodding along on a typewriter, having to go through a revision or two, or three, or....

The technology does allow for relatively easy small-run/one-off manufacturing, and there certainly is a market for "printing shops" if you can get the starting capital ( a whole different proposition nowadays...) It's a nifty tool for quite a lot of purposes, and it certainly has potential. A lot will depend on the availability (and price) of suitable polymers that have the desired characteristics for certain applications, and that's where there's a lot left to develop.

But 10 years from now? Who knows.

And Big_D.. you do realise that the actual cost of an injection mould is rather steep? Along with the machine you need to make it work.. Mass production is all good and nice, but the process of injection moulding is *only* economically feasible because it is used for mass-production. It's wholly unsuited for the applications, production numbers, and versatility expected from 3D printing...

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Re: Right now I can see only specialist application

That is why I specifically said for mass production it probably won't be economical, but for short runs.

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Re: Right now I can see only specialist application

We had some people in the office recently that were making injection mould for small parts by 3D printing.

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Re: Right now I can see only specialist application

Yep its worth getting just for that!

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Zot
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I've wanted to buy one for years, but to get top quality I'll still have to fork out tens of thousands of pounds and have a large storage space. When the quality improves on the cheaper, smaller models then I'll get one, but until then it's all a bit "meh."

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3D Printing plagued by hype

There are articles on t'internet that are hailing 3D printing would allow people to print new parts for their cars, new covers for their phones, even new parts for their bodies. And we can all remember the 3D gun being printed.

The thing is, and the gun proves it, the plastic isn't strong enough to have any real use. And many applications whereby you could print parts for require parts to be made of several types of materials, not just one. So the idea of printing off a car is always going to be that: an idea. A dream.

However, in the UK on Channel 4 not so long ago there was a documentary by Embarassing Bodies about a gentleman who lost half his face from cancer. To give you an idea, he lost his left eye, his left cheekbone, the roof of his mouth, the top left part of his jaw and his teeth. Because of his treatment and everything he had been through (he had also contracted MRSA), he was forced to essentially stick a plaster over that part of his face.

He had seen some specialists and one of them was a dentist, who took a 3D model of this man's head and created a 3D print out of it, which was then used to design a prosthetic eye, check bone, and new teeth. It was very successful, and aside from the human story of this, the way 3D printing was used to give this man a new face essentially was just incredible. And I feel that 3D printing has more of a use to the medical profession than anything else.

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Re: 3D Printing plagued by hype

Yea and the nice side story is he has 2 prosthetics, one for winter one for summer, to rack his tan.

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