A couple of interesting articles provoked some thinking about 3D printing standards. First, we have a post by the Open3DP folks, who complain that they’d like to use different types of print material in their 3D printers. They are, of course, known for experimenting with all kinds of unusual print materials. They suggest standards for 3D print materials should emerge, perhaps even with an “App store for Materials”. In this way we could mix and match material and try to get the most out of our printers. Otherwise we’re stuck “jailbreaking” materials or simply buying them from the manufacturer.
We think in practice this could be rather tricky, since the 3D Printing is an inherently mechanical, chemical and thermal process, devices tend to be aligned toward their specific print materials and vice versa. Financially, we suspect many commercial 3D Printer manufacturers make a ginormous portion of their revenue from print cartridges, and they likely don’t want to give that pseudo-monopoly up anytime soon.
Meanwhile, Scott Crump of Stratasys debates the new industry standard term, “Additive Manufacturing”, as set by the ASTM International F42 standards subcommittee on terminology for our industry. From Scott:
The new term is not intended to eliminate terms like 3D printing, rapid prototyping, and direct digital manufacturing, which are subsets of additive manufacturing. You can “prototype” with an additive manufacturing system.
What we’re thinking is that this industry is getting dangerously close to the point where many standards should be emerging. Customers, manufacturers and we suspect even hobbyists would benefit from standards. Where will they come from?