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3D Printing, Not for Everyone

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

I am amazed by the number of people attempting 3D printing. It’s a wonder, and a curse. Or perhaps I should say causes a lot of wondering, curses and cursing.

I am afraid that because of the reduction of cost, 3D printers are a popular holiday purchase. Many will be in the hands of totally inept owners who expect a plug-and-play experience.

Plug and play (P&P) may be possible on some brand-new units, but in the long term, 3D printing is very far from P&P. A keen aptitude for observation and trouble shooting is a major requirement. The huge number of variables in 3D printing must constantly be compared and all interactions understood.

Variables will vary, and conditions will change, that is inevitable. There are no long-term steady-state conditions. In 3D printing, EVERYTHING is a variable and affects satisfactory operation.

I have seen 3D Printer forum posting where some users can’t load the control program on their computer or connect the USB cable. A world of hurt is about to explode on the 3D printer scene. To the neophyte, 3D printing can be compared to herding cats.

Marketing makes it look simple. The job of marketing is to move boxes out the door. Worry about support later. Tis’ the season to sell.

There is certainly going to be many good to great experiences for those who are technically and mechanically inclined. People who enjoy tinkering and getting things to work and keep working. Small working parts need changed and replaced. Some improvements and upgrades will be necessary. Screws get loose. The quality of consumables changes. Dealing with adversity is a requirement. Some people like solving issues.

But others are going to hate the experience.

This is just what it takes to keep the hardware working. There are two other book-ends to this experience. The first one is obtaining and creating files for items to be printed. The second is the finish work required on many items after the printing process.

A 3D printing service may be a far better choice than DIY for a few special parts. That’s why they exist.

My concern is that a 3D printer is far more work than an Easy-Bake oven. It’s an industrial-like machine and process for the mechanical, electrical, computer savvy operator. It is not a plug and play appliance or toy for consumption by the unaware or unprepared masses. Marketing it otherwise, be danged.

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