Dear 3D community. I have no experience in 3D printing,

Dear 3D community. I have no experience in 3D printing, but I follow the media and there has been so much spin on the topic, so I thought I will bring up this, perhaps not the most popular, opinion:

Media is all about 3D print revolution and the motto “3D printer in every home” seems to be the leitmotif today. However, beside medical and industrial application and, perhaps some makers, I haven’t seen anything interesting printed on a 3D printer at home by anybody yet. I mean there are all those complicated figures, but they seem to be a waste of plastic, because they are useless. This includes demos of the 3D printer manufacturers - all they make, as a demo is just a bunch of complicated, but useless bullshit. I went, of course, through the community page, to see what people are making, but I see the same - discussions on new printers, examples of industrial and medical uses, and half of the makers, it seems, are trying to justify the investment in to a 3D printer, by printing stuff, that was never a problem to make before this technology came along.

I remember some years ago, when Makerbot was just starting, one of the creators, I think was giving an interview on how how 3D printing will revolutionise the world and his example was something like, if a shower curtain hook breaks, you can just go ahead and print a new one. Excuse me, investing couple of grand into something, that I can buy in package of 20 for a buck, does not seem that revolutionary to me. He didn’t give further examples.

The pic below depicts TechCrunch’s, a media property mostly concerned with tech, a 3D printed figurine of one of their editor. Now, this picture is fresh - end of May 2013 fresh. What is the point of all this? When I was a kid, my Soviet made cheap plastic toy solders looked better, and were cheaper, than this. And please don’t tell me it’s not the same, because this is not assembly line product, because it hardly looks like a human, let alone some specific person.

Don’t take me wrong, I believe sooner or later 3D printing will become part of everyday life, but now does not seem to be the time for mass adoption and general domestic use.

My question finally: Am I missing something? If I do, please recommend me where to start if I do.

P.S. - I am not willing to invest in to a 3D printer just to be able to print cases for my Arduino projects - this is complete bullshit, because anyone can make those cases themselves or adapt existing ones.

P.P.S. - I am sorry for the long post - this topic has stuck in my head for a long time. I am not trolling, I am honestly curious and 3D printing community seems like a proper place to ask. Please don’t take it personally - I am not attacking 3D printing, I hope this community doesn’t have annoying mindless fanboys, that see no reason behind their favorite brand / tech / race / religion / lifestyle / whatever else fanatics pick as the target of their adoration.

3d printers are for people that create. People that only consume will be disappointed.

@Billy You are speaking in very general terms. I’d like to see an example, that is useful domestically and be made by anybody, who owns the printer. At the end of the day, technology like 3D printer suppose to turn everybody (or at least lots) into makers. Printing case for RaspberryPi is hardly “creating”.

I said it’s not for everybody. Most people are consumers. Sounds to me like you just want something to consume.

@Billy Your assumptions don’t let you understand what I am trying to say. Let’s make it easy - what have you created using a 3D printer? Or at least what would you like to create, if you don’t have the access to it at the moment?

I create robots. Having a 3d printer + MCAD skills has dramatically raised the bar to what I am able to create.

Rant much? What did you first do with a dot matrix printer? When I was a kid the first thing I did was to forge grade slips for my friends with it. Not sure I ever did anything more interesting than that with the technology of the time. Now I use my laser printer for all manner of things just about every day.

Big picture: cultural, arts, educational, scientific, research, engineering, and hell its just pretty damn fun. Whose kid hasnt wanted custom doll house furniture - and its cheap too. What about tactile education to go along with the other senses - being able to hold a replica of something in your hands that you wouldnt be able to otherwise makes learning better. Hyperbole aside, I think desktop 3d printers will be responsible for the next generation of kids that grow up to be engineers and artists.

Im working on two art commissions at the moment: one a five foot diameter illuminated ring fabbed in the studio and the other a three month long object-based documentation of our city’s urban environment.

So I think there are lots of things besides curtain rings and tchotchkes.

@Billy Surely you don’t print stepper motors and hydraulics. Or the sensors. Or processor unit (Arduino? RaspberryPi? Pure AMTEL? Got your software on GitHub yet?). I mean, those are probably the most important parts of home robot dev. The looks, yeah, custom is nice, I wouldn’t go as far as call it revolutionary in robot making, unless you are doing it professionally. Pretty pics please?

You’re right. All you need to do to make robots is duct tape a pile of robot parts together.

@Greg_Kail Actually, you bring up very good questions regarding the hype of 3d printing. @Billy is very succinct and accurate with his response - and on a side note, how is your 3D printer doing? The Printxel?

Let’s refer to that picture. You saw this plastic blob as a poor by product of mass produced toy soldiers.

I see that as a benchmark of that particular printer’s ability to create a model based on a uncommon shape, and see how much loss in resolution. This will determine if the 3d printer is useful to me or not.

A 3D printer is a very specialized(and currently fragile) tool that that I would dare say that should be marketed to a smaller, more focused group, despite the efforts of media and overzealous people/companies trying to get as many people to buy them. I might dare say that those parties may be influenced by a desire to make a quick buck.

A 3d printer can be like a tool in a shop class - it may make students become more creative.

A 3d printer can be a time saver when trying to create a prototype and require changes to be made quicker than traditional means.

A 3d printer can print chess pieces and hooks and knobs. I personally think is this is a side benefit and not a primary purpose - since, a trip to the local hardware store can get you replacement parts or parts to build a replacement for a lot less money/time required by a 3d printer.

I repaired my microwave with a 3D printed part. The plastic connector between the motor and the plate that turns around broke. I couldn’t find it anywhere so I designed it myself in 30 minutes and had my friend print it on his 3D printer.

@Billy This is robot making:

or go to and enter DIY robots (ignore decoration)

Notice how half of these robots don’t have shell at all. Some are made with lego, some with random parts, whatever makers were able to find in their toolshed. There is a fair chunk of robots, that indeed use duct tape or even cardboard. In the first comment you came on on the high horse about makers and creators, yet throughout the whole discussion you have failed to explain your robotics projects and how 3D printing would be a huge additional value to it. The vague expressions taken straight from the back of the box of your expensive hardware do not really add anything to this discussion, neither they are giving any answers to my question about 3D printing in general. I think this discussion between us is over.

Thank you @Klaas_Bals for a very reasonable answer. This is the type of application of 3D printing, that make it useful. However, I am pretty sure this is not the primary purpose of the use of this technology. Like @Minuk_Choi rightfully said - prototypes, especially in mechanical field seem to be one of the major purpose, but how much of it is part of the domestic hobby making, at least now in 2013, is still very questionable.

@Greg_Kail some people make things. We are the people that get it! When I was young working nights in a machine shop putting myself through university, thank you US eduction system, and I saw a film on the first 3d printer I knew one day I would be that engineer. To create my three dimensional ideas is a dream come true. People like me are only happy creating the rest of you watch television.

This is exactly what I afraid of: @its_a_cyn gives absolutely plausible answer, until that obnoxious elitist streak hits and he plainly insults everyone, who does not use 3D printer. Buddy, take it easy, I am a maker too, but I focus more on the software part and macroprocessor programming.

@Greg_Kail for someone who claims not to be attacking people you sure are fucking hostile.

Shut the fuck up and crawl back under your bridge.

Thanks everybody for your exceptional efforts! From the comments I think I got a clear the picture of the practical application of 3D printing technology by hobbyists and it’s users.

I repaired my mountaineering ski boots in April before a big trip and it performed great . Saved me 500 bucks cause the don’t sell parts.

another issue:
when you print your new shower curtain ring, you get something that is designed to do a good job, potentially, not one that makes the manufacturer the most profit, ie keeps breaking just enough so you keep buying them.

I homebuilt a bike in my garage. I made steel-cutting templates on my 3D printer. There are other ways to make them, but it was the easiest way to get what I needed for me.

Personally, I think you’re pretty dismissive of people and their uses. The distinction between “medical” and “home use” is pretty subjective, for example. Mass production reduces us to little more than clones, but custom made, custom designed home-made gear, though possibly more expensive, is a form of expression of individuality.

Finally, there’s the matter of priviledge. Its easy to say “those curtain hooks are cheaper and easier to get at the store”, but that’s coming from a very US and urban centric attitude. not everyone has a corner store. Not everyone has access to cheap imported chinese goods.