What’s The Digital Camera Of 3D Printers?

Brad Moon writes at InvestorPlace that 3D printing may be having its “Inkjet Moment”. Inkjet printers he says were met with a little skepticism at first, but had their watershed moment when digital photos started to be uploaded and shared.

So what’s the 3D printing cognate of the digital camera? Answer: Thingiverse, which “already has the plans available online for nearly 2,800 replacement parts,” for machines of all kinds.

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3 Comments so far

  • Subreyes94
    March 22, 2012 at 11:52 am

    No. I don’t think so. I believe the watershed will be when a major corporation, either a big box like Home Depot or Walmart who has sway over manufacturers or a manufacturer of multiple products, like Kenmore or Sauder, begins to offer replacement parts for download.

    Right now, the ability to cost-effectively retrieve a “cap” for a Sauder Desk that I just put together or a clip that holds my dust bag is not there. But when manufacturers see the cost-savings in distribution and customer loyalty around providing non- intellectual property parts and customers see the advantage of low-cost, environmentally-friendl and 4-6 week delivery reduced to 10-20 minute DIY repair, the watershed will occur.

  • Marcelo RC
    March 23, 2012 at 9:55 am

    Subreyes94 has a very good point. We may also see more “kit” products, lower in price (less shipping, flatter boxes, fewer parts to produce) for home printing and assembly, so a new “breed” of manufactured products. They could ship just the non-printable accesories and the design files.

    Another type of “new” manufacturing could be like the software business, with user-performed updates to a previous version of a product. Like the RepRap itself, that gets new and improved parts to rebuild itself, you can have a gamut of “subscription atoms”, not just a product (the thing) but also a service behind it (the updates).

    I think the laserwriter is also a possible paradigm, before the inkjets… it was first capitalized as a useful tool by ad agencies and designers before trickling down to the general public. They did not replace designers, and 3d printing will not replace manufacturers. They will just create new markets.

  • Laird Popkin
    March 23, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    The analogy with the LaserWriter is a good one. The LaserWriter took high quality printing out of the real of professional typesetting by large companies and agencies and into the realm of small businesses and individuals. Sure, if you wanted to make really high quality print, or produce mass quantities of publications, the traditional printers are more economical, but if you didn’t operate at that scale, a laser printer was a miracle.

    Similarly, the MakerBot (and repraps and 3D printers more generally) take manufacturing out of the realm of factories and specialized agencies and into the realm of small businesses and individuals. Sure, for making large quantities of high quality items, injection molding wins. But for those of us who only need one of a thing, a MakerBot is a miracle.


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