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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Using 3D printing in place of traditional manufacture

One of the promises of 3D printing is the ability to make customized parts in place of doing traditional manufacture. Alice Taylor of Makie Lab is doing just that and it's awesome. Go watch that video and be amazed with the awesomeness. Seriously, go watch it.

The problem, as is reoccurring with this sort of thing, is that the less limited the customization is the more expensive it tends towards. Even with attempts automating the customization the best we have is $20 for a 2" (or more for a bigger) boring toy that you really can't play with. Makie Lab is making something way cooler, and for what it is the price is pretty good, but it's still way more expensive than a mass produced Barbie doll.

For me the experience is different, however. I'm using 3d printing for straight manufacturing of objects to sell, no customization, turning my garage into a mini (very mini) manufacturing facility. And with services like Etsy I can set up an online store front and this weekend and evening toy maker thing I have going on becomes manageable. This actually allows me to keep my prices down while I build my business up with relatively little capital. Maybe one day I will be able to afford a second 3D printer. Maybe one day I'll find a manufacturer for some of my things and make some retiring money. Maybe I'll just have a weekend project for a long time, and there's nothing wrong with that either. And that's pretty awesome, too.

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