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Friday, June 21, 2013

Useless junk? What do you expect?

"All anyone ever makes with 3D printers is toys."

"Why is every tutorial for something useless?"

"Shapeways, is wasting amazing technology making inconsequential garbage."

"All that stuff is just designed to do is collect dust on a shelf."

" I just don't get this obsession with printing little trinkets."

3D printing is perhaps the single most useful new technology in the world right now, but when you're showing it to people what do you think is going to market it better: useful part that only some people understand the utility of or useless doodad that everyone can see move and go "oooh". Too on the nose? How about this: A useful part that only works if you happen to have a specific model of thing to use it with or a cool looking thing?

The very first thing I modeled for 3D printing was a guide for a drawer. The first thing I uploaded to thingiverse was a Chinese Chess set. In fact I've never even uploaded the drawer guide because unless you have that specific drawer I don't see this being spectacularly useful. On the other hand anyone can play Chinese Chess. In fact I've made a ton of useful things that I haven't uploaded for similar reasons, because I needed them for a job but chances are you won't be doing the same job. Looking over my Thingiverse page there are still a significant number of useful items I have uploaded there.

People are making useful things for 3D printing. People are also making trinkets. And know what? 3D printing can handle them both. But when showing off 3D printing the trinkets do the job better because more people can relate to it so it can seem like that's the only thing people use 3D printing for. But it's not.

And for the record, at least 2 tutorials in the book are for useful items.

To me the real opportunity of 3D printing is in the artistic-useful thing. Why have just a door knob when you can take one of these useless trinkets out there and use it to pretty up something boring and utilitarian. Unfortunately that sort of design takes a little bit more time and when you're not even sure the thing is going to work it's hard to risk design time on it, and when it does work it's hard to justify going back just for some prettying up. But when it does happen it's awesome. 

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