I’d totally forgotten about VR, but MIT Technology Review’s Christopher Mims reminds us of it’s hyped up promises back when I was in high school going through new issues of PC/Computing. Then he asks, is 3-D printing going to go to the way of VR goggles?
MIT Technology Review:
But the notion that 3-D printing will on any reasonable time scale become a “mature” technology that can reproduce all the goods on which we rely is to engage in a complete denial of the complexities of modern manufacturing, and, more to the point, the challenges of working with matter.
Let’s start with the mechanism. Most 3-D printers lay down thin layers of extruded plastic. That’s great for creating cheap plastic toys with a limited spatial resolution. But printing your Mii or customizing an iPhone case isn’t the same thing as firing ceramics in a kiln or smelting metal or mixing lime with sand at high temperatures to produce glass—unless you’d like everything that’s currently made from those substances to be replaced with plastic, and there are countless environmental, health, and durability reasons you don’t.
I tend to agree and I like that someone tempers the hype. Then again, Technology Review published an excellent counterpoint by TIm Maly:
Chris is right that 3-D printing as it stands isn’t a replacement for the contemporary industrial supply chain. It’s clearly a transitional technology. The materials suck. The resolution is terrible. The objects are fragile. You can’t recycle the stuff.
Maybe early home 3-D printers use only plastic and can only make objects that fall within certain performance restrictions. Maybe it starts out as, like, jewelry, the latest model toys, andparts for Jay Leno’s car. But there’s no way that lasts. People are already working on the problem. They are working especially hard on the materials problem.
Let’s hope we get some happy surprises. Last time I checked, enterprise printers are still in business, but so is Adobe.