We frequently scan the Internet to find the latest on Fabbing, and lately we keep finding many postings regarding DesktopFactory's sub-$5000 3D printer. We're guilty of that ourselves.
Many of these postings imply that 3D printing is going to be relatively straightforward. Just purchase the now-inexpensive printer and you're good to go!
But it's not like that.
There are critical and necessary components beyond the printer hardware that bear consideration, and most pundits seem to miss them. In this post we'll discuss what they are, while in future posts we'll dig deeper into what they really mean.
The three key considerations are:
- The printer itself. We often discuss these on Fabbaloo. DesktopFactory's device will be the first of many that are inexpensive.
- The printing media. Our familiar 2D printers use paper as their media, but realize there are different kinds of paper, and even unusual 2D media such as blank CDs or T-Shirt iron-ons. The world of 3D printing is no different, and perhaps much more complicated. Current 3D printers print on a variety of substances, some common like sugar, while others are complex proprietary chemical substances. Some are wet, others are dry and powdered. Some are powdered and become wet. Each has different characteristics - and cost.
- The designs. What exactly do you print? In the 2D world, you must either create a document (with office-type software) or use a document that someone else has created. Again, there is no difference in the 3D world: you must create or find a design. No objects appear without a design first. But you don't use commonly available office tools to create 3D designs - today you must use specialized modeling software that many people do not yet know how to use. 3D printing services sometimes prepare designs for you in advance, and you merely select an existing design.
We believe that the latter two items will ultimately prove much more interesting than the printers themselves, just as today's 2D printers are more or less a commodity and we focus our attention on the documents and media instead.