My response in another thread to a "3d printing will not replace traditional manufacturing"

My response in another thread to a “3d printing will not replace traditional manufacturing” comment:

I disagree. I think 3D printing will replace traditional manufacturing. It will never be practical for centralized mass-manufacturing, but I think that paradigm will be replaced when we all have the means to produce custom items in our own homes (or at Amazon’s nearest warehouse, etc.).

The customization point is key. Injection molding 10,000+ of the same part may always be faster and cheaper than printing them (though we should never underestimate the power of massive parallelism: if you have 10,000 printers sitting idle vs. a few injection molding machines and mills to cut molds, the equation looks very different), but as the gap decreases, the value of generic parts will decrease in favor of custom, made-to-order ones, which is 3d printing’s big strength.

I would like to be able to make screws and such on demand at my house.

Shelf clip broke? Bam!

It will be some time before we can make screws in our homes. Screwless fasteners and adapters to allow you to use a different size screw are much more likely.

Agree totally @Whosa_whatsis . Mass manufacturing will always be cheaper to produce 50,000 copies of one but can never compete when making one, 50,000 times

I think where consumers don’t care that much about customization, efficiencies and cost will determine which process gets used when. What we may see is the guts of a product manufactured in the standard way, but skinned with 3D printed parts.

Appliance repair centers - no need to stock smaller plastic parts.

@Chris_Horton That assumes that customized items are significantly more difficult to get than generic ones. That will be less and less the case as time goes on.

@Whosa_whatsis Granted, but my point was that people won’t care about customizing everything, and when they don’t, lowest price (ie, lowest cost to make) wins. I can see that as customization becomes easier the pendulum swings toward people wanting everything custom, but there will always be cases where they don’t care enough to pay more for it.

@Chris_Horton I agree, though I have to add that this is where the massive parallelism argument comes in. When 3d printing can make things that are just as good (currently they are not just as good in a few ways, but this will change), the massive number of 3d printers available to work in parallel may tip the scales in the direction of using them rather than traditional methods.

You also have to consider transportation. With 3d printing, everything can be made locally, and only the design files (which move at the speed of light for a negligible energy cost vs. slow shipping containers) need to be transported long-distance. This change completely overturning the concept of economies of scale is, of course, much further out.

Paper printers did nothing to hurt book sales, even if ebooks did. I expect 3d printers will go the same route. They are definitely disruptive technology. I’m just not sure what they will disrupt.

Agreed. Last year I was excited about the idea of a network of printer owners as a kind of distributed MOD service, but it doesn’t work at scale because there’s not a high enough density of printers. Ie, the cost of having 100 people shipping 10 objects each will be way more expensive than 1 commercial source sending 1,000.

Locally it could work. I guess we’ll have to wait a few years to see :wink:

FDM always looks to be quite expensive. Time is always and issue the process just isn’t that fast and there are some hard limits there. On energy the costs are also dramatically higher when printing partly related also to time. 3D printing has a growing niche, but it is still a niche and for mass production or even for small series of simple cost sensitive products it is just not nearly there yet.

Who said anything about FDM? FDM is the most cost-effective method of 3d printing usable parts now, but I don’t think for a second that it’s the technology that will “win” in the long run.

I guess i focus on FDM because It is what is here at an affordable price today on the market. If we start talking about >50k Euro for a printer rather than <5k Euro then 3D printing is likely to be a loss less buzzy. For pro use for sure we have better technologies.

I think that this sort of logic is flawed. Globally, there is tons of room for economies to continue growing, so claiming that a single technology will dominate another is unwise. 3D printing and on-demand manufacturing will certainly grow into a solid niche, and will impact mass manufacture in the process. But, certainly it is difficult to imagine just how 3D printing will disrupt in the coming years.

Well @Rich_Platts I would say the applications for medical use look pretty disruptive. Cornell’s ear? Exoskeletons? And if that Dutch architect successfully prints a house, that could be very disruptive.

Home ovens will never replace commercial bakeries. I should just get rid of mine.

I think there’s this slope between mass manuf. and custom manuf. If it is only cost effective to make a run of 10,000 units, but custom manufacturing has reduced the demand to 8,000 units, then what? Mass manufacturing is no longer cost competitive. Where is the point in the slope where reduced demand eliminates all the profit margin of mass manuf. by requiring smaller production runs? Perhaps home manuf. will have a negative impact on some sectors of the economy. Take model planes and helicopters. If I’m a repeat buyer of helicopter frames, but I can make as many as I want for a $400 investment, that’s one less unit of demand for production runs of helicopter frames.

Near-instant manifestation of customized things will be great, but generating the customized designs will be slower. I doubt that everyone will be capable of generating custom designs, and as you move up the customization hierarchy you’ll lose people. From choosing from 2 different wal-mart shower rings, to shopping online, to ordering a customized part in one of many colors, to using a stl file with your own slicing and materials, to tweaking values in a parametric CAD file, (Looks like Thingiverse does that Customizer on OpenSCAD files), to editing someone else’s cad file, to editing your own new CAD file, it costs more design time and skills to do the customization to get your item.

At some point, the cost of customization moves past efficiency and satisficing towards “art”, but these new technologies are moving that line.

Hi Mike. This rather assumes that 3d printing will take business from conventional manufacturing. I don’t see evidence of that, or even a credible path to get us there. I do however see it coming out of the development department and becoming interesting for making pilot and trial series of products. But even there functionally the parts limit application, some fine technical details don’t work so well in printed parts, aesthetics aren’t quite there and other parts are just not suitable for current technologies (try 3D printing a heatsink).
Personally I’m using rapid manufacturing (conventional fast CNC machining) in these areas now and I don’t see printing beating that based on experience in the last couple of years.
There is for sure room for printing, there is also room for rapid machining and for conventional manufacturing technologies and I’m sure for various Hybrids combinations of these.