A Future 3D Media Problem

We’ve been thinking about the future world of 3D printing, where theoretically everyone has a 3D printer at home, probably sitting right beside their 2D paper printer. We predict a printing media issue will develop. What might that be?

Consider the current situation of 2D paper printers: your 2D printer requires media (ink & paper, but let’s talk about the ink). To refill your 2D printer, you must purchase a cartridge of ink from the manufacturer. Oh wait, you have to purchase up to Four Cartridges containing all the necessary spectrum of colors. The ink in these cartridges is consumed as you print.

Transform this to the analogous 3D printer scenario: your 3D printer requires print media (essentially a chemical goop of some kind) that will no doubt be a proprietary mixture available only from the manufacturer. Do you need different colors, like we do with 2D printers? Perhaps. But it gets worse. You may need print media of different quality! Consider these characteristics that you might look for on the box labels at a future 3D media store:

  • Strength. How strong is the resulting object before it breaks?
  • Malleability: How bendable is the resulting object?
  • Temperature: How hot or cold can the resulting object get before it breaks down?
  • Weight: How heavy is one standard unit of the media?

And there are probably even more characteristics. Color we mentioned above, but it likely won’t be a characteristic of the 3D print media as that would imply our media store would require a lot more shelf space to accommodate all the required colors! Instead we suspect 3D printers will simply mix in coloring as the objects are printed. However, this means our 3D printer will also require a four-color ink cartridge just like your 2D printer!

So just as our print supplies today include color cartridges and a small selection of paper types, our 3D print supplies will include multiple bottles of differing media – and the color cartridges too.

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