The 3D Printer Killer Application!
The public are generally fascinated by the 3D Printer I have on display and working in my shop. It’s an excellent conversation starter!
This leads me to the main reason I’m writing this post; I’m very often asked the question what is a 3D Printer good for?
I invariably and inanely say we are waiting for the killer application, just like what happened to PC’s the invention of the spreadsheet which kicked off the PC revolution.
I’ve been trying to spot this killer application for the past year and I think I’ve found it.
Unfortunately it’s not in this case going to be something as simple as uploading some software on to your 3D Printer. It’s nothing special or new, it’s already here, it’s already happening it’s just that nobody has realises its potential.
I note that many people who build a 3D Printer go on to build another 3D Printer, others built single purpose machines like one in particular that fascinates me; a machine that strips and cuts wires ready for inclusion in a shield project.
So what is the trend here? The trend I am seeing is people are building “Robots”.
Now I’m sure we all know that robots will be significant in the future however lately I have begun to realise that the significance is greater and more important to me and you as 3D Printer owners and users, but where does this significance lead? what is the killer application?
First of all you have to change your perception of the 3D Printer itself, don’t think of it as a machine for printing parts, think of it as a specialised robot, a robot with the capacity to create more robots.
What does this mean? What does this difference in perception change?
Going back to the wire cutting robot, imagine you have a workshop filled with specialised machines, a sweatshop of robots, robots designed and built quickly, cheaply and easily for a particular task with 1 or 2 operatives managing 10 20 50 100 machines! As a contract finishes, you start cannibalizing the now redundant robots to create a new set of robots for the next contract.
This leads me to believe that the 3D Printer does not have a killer application in itself, the 3D Printer is actually the first robot of any significance in fabrication. The killer application is “robots” and the 3D Printer is your very own robot giving you potential access to any robot you can conceive.
With the 3D Printer and with the technology that drives the 3D Printer; the software; the stepper motors; the knowledge you gain, you, I, we are in a position to use the 3D Printer as the first step in building the next generation of robots.
The next generation will be basic application robots like computer controlled plasma cutters, laser cutters, welders and devices not even thought of yet. In other words robots for building the components of more and more complicated and specialised robots, and at a cost available to many.
Another way of looking at it, the 3D Printer has lowered the cost of the entry level factory; manafacturing is now something within easy grasp of the man on the street.
I could go on with my mirandering thoughts, but I think it would be wise for me to take pause and ask you for your comments criticisms and observations.