Here is one of the “things” from a recent Quartz panel discussion held at General Assembly in New York City about taking 3D printers “beyond the hype”: or as they put it “Three things you need to understand about 3D printing to talk about it intelligently.” I (Griffin) was one of the participants and enjoyed the chance to chat on this topic with Joergen Geerds, Duann Scott of Shapeways, Liz Arum of The MakerBot Foundation, and Quartz reporter Christopher Mims.
3D printing isn’t good for a lot of things
Easier interfaces are key to making 3D printing mainstream, the panel agreed, but material limitations are also a concern. “Right now,” Scott said, “You can only use one material at a time. Most things around you are made from multiple materials. This microphone has a crap ton of stuff inside of it.” Not being able to print electronics and their casings in one go, the panelists said, was a major drawback.
There are plenty of things (like firearms) that you could probably make with a 3D printer, but shouldn’t —- and not just because of possible legal issues. The mechanisms of a gun aren’t easily produced by a 3D printer, and will perform sub-optimally. This concept, Scott said, extends to other products as well: Just because we can print it doesn’t mean we ever will.
And 3D printing won’t be changing the way all manufacturing works, the panelists agreed. “It’s not a place for manufacturing, it’s a place for prototyping,” Arum said, “And it has certain uses, but it won’t transform everything.”
Griffin concluded that most of the overhype of 3D printing comes from a misunderstanding of what exactly a 3D printer is. “There’s a lot of conflation, with people saying we’re 3D printing organs and key fobs,” Griffin said. “But they’re talking about different machines and different goals. The machines are evolving separately.” The fact that one expensive, highly specialized machine can weave cars from carbon fiber filament, he said, doesn’t mean that this is something all 3D printers will be enlisted to do….
Every Thursday is #3dthursday here at Adafruit! The DIY 3D printing community has passion and dedication for making solid objects from digital models. Recently, we have noticed electronics projects integrated with 3D printed enclosures, brackets, and sculptures, so each Thursday we celebrate and highlight these bold pioneers!
Have you considered building a 3D project around an Arduino or other microcontroller? How about printing a bracket to mount your Raspberry Pi to the back of your HD monitor? And don’t forget the countless LED projects that are possible when you are modeling your projects in 3D!
The Adafruit Learning System has dozens of great tools to get you well on your way to creating incredible works of engineering, interactive art, and design with your 3D printer! If you’ve made a cool project that combines 3D printing and electronics, be sure to let us know, and we’ll feature it here!