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Monday, December 10, 2012

Questions about 3D printing 1

I've gotten a number of inquiries about 3D printing from all over, as I suspect many people in the 3D printing community have. So in the interest of helping others who may have similar questions when I get permission I'm going to re-post the questions and answers here as they come.

Today's questions come from Sina who writes:
My name is Sina and I am a Master student at the University of Paderborn in Germany. At the moment I am working on a project in the field of innovation management targeting 3D home printing.

1.) How did you discover your interests in 3D printing?
In the past I studied 3D modeling in the vain hope of a career in computer animation. Years later while working as a programmer I heard about the RepRap project I was immediately hooked. A robot that will turn my 3D models into reality and at a reasonable price? The future is here! Unfortunately I have a family and an unfinished education to think about first so I was not about to drop nearly $1000 on something like that. But just knowing it was a possibility changed me.
2.) How long have you been personally involved in printing for private purpose?
That depends on what level of involvement you're talking about. A year ago I started modeling specifically for 3D printing but it was only 7 or 8 months ago that I actually got a 3D printer.
3.) What is your favorite jewelry or accessories print/ design?
I don't wear jewelry much, so I guess my preferences is to make and design jewelry that will sell. Mostly I create geeky designs that reflect the favorites of nerds and geeks like me.
4.) Which material do you use for printing jewelry and accessories? 
Plastic occasionally with metal pin backs or hooks like you can buy at a hobby store. Most of my rings are all plastic.
5.) Which material would you like to use in this area in the near future?
I may experiment with earring hooks here soon. I also just bought some gold colored plastic for future designs. Tho perhaps you mean materials for 3D printing. In the near future? None that I want to use in the near future. I'm less interested in developing the technology, I'd rather use what has been developed.
6.) What are the main challenges concerning the future material?
That is a question for someone who is more interested in developing the technology of 3D printing. It's exciting that we're now to a point where 3D printing has split into 2 camps, the folks trying to make it just work, and the folks who are using what's been proven to do cool things. I'm in the second group.
7.) How many people do you know that currently using 3D printers at home?
In real life I know 2 others. Through the internet, maybe 50.
8.) What do you think how many people will use it in 5 years? How many in 10 years?
I forsee 3D printing services coming into their own in in 5 years. In 10 years there should be a sub $300 3D printer on the market that is easy for everyone to use. By then 3D printers will be as common as inkjets.
9.) Can you think of business opportunities in 3D printing for private purpose? 
Sure, there are tons. It's a question of your imagination.

For me the more interesting question is "can you remain open with your designs and still make money?" For instance, everything I sell you can go to thingiverse, download, and print yourself if you have a 3D printer. Fortunately most people don't so I don't so I still have a market but what will that be like in 5 or 10 years?
10.) Which barriers do you see as the market development?
Depends on which market. The barriers to home 3D printers are in cost and ease of software use. The barriers to selling 3D printed stuff are in availability of 3D printers to others. As the one goes up the other will necessarily go down.

That's not to say there won't be a market for clever people making original things, regardless of the tools. There's always a market for that.

11.) Which type of 3D prints will be a future trend?
Higher resolution, cheaper hardware, on-the-fly model processing. Right now printing a 3D model involves using a computer to prepare the model for the 3D printer. It would be like you taking a document you wanted to (2D) print and having to prepare another file which would define the movement of the machine with various settings for resolution, speed, etc, and then running THAT file to actually produce your document. Sure, it would allow you greater flexibility in what you could do with your printer, but no one would stand for it these days.
12.) What about trends in printing jewelry and accessories?
13.) Which factors do you think are driving technological innovation in the field of 3D printing jewelry or accessories?  
14.) Which technological problems do you think these trends might face?
I don't really know much about the jewelry scene as it is, so I can't speculate how it will be effected by 3D printing. I find the tutorials of Mikee Rice on YouTube and others very informative for how to use Blender to do this sort of thing.
15.) What is the craziest 3D printing idea that you have ever had or seen?
Someone has proposed the building of a bio-printer that grows and then lays down living tissue. The application is in the creation of organic artificial replacement organs that won't be rejected because they'll be grown from the patients own tissue. That's pretty cool. Then the idea was proposed that plastic surgery could be done by removing old skin tissue then printing new tissue directly on the patient keeping the patient perpetually young provided they have the money for treatments. But the idea of peeling and discarding skin tissue on the face for cosmetic purposes... that's a bit far out for me.

I hope that helps. There's a lot of questions about jewelry there and I'm sorry I can't help you more with it. I think the important part is that the answer to many of your questions is you. There will be no innovation until someone actually uses this technology to change the game the game will never change.

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