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When the Space Shuttle was proposed, it was promised that there were going to be all sorts of fantastic spin-off from the scientific research and manufacturing that could only be done by sending humans into space. It turns out that there is very little that can be done only that way and what little there is has no commercial application because it is fantastically expensive to send things up and back into space on a manned space craft. So NASA, in order to have something to do, was reduced to sending elementary school teachers (bearing elementary school experiments) and visiting foreign astronauts into space as publicity stunts. Naturally these stunts backfired when the Shuttles they were on board exploded. Sending humans into space to hurdle around at 30,000 kph in a vacuum, riding atop a giant fuel filled fireball and returning in another fireball is fantastically risky (even more so using the overly complex shuttle vs. the well proven simple but reliable Soviet designs) and can hardly be justified to print plastic geegaws now that the Cold War is over.K
Typical 3DP bullshit hype. In reality, there is practically nothing you need an extrusion 3D printer for up there. "You can make anything you want, as long as it's little, plastic, doesn't get a lot of mechanical stress, and you don't mind sitting around and waiting." Yeah, great. Notice the look on the guy's face as he's being forced to sell this piece of shit his idiot Wired-reading bureaucracy foisted on him for PR. I almost puked when I heard him recycle that "Star Trek Replicator" line. There's a reason this tech has been around for about 20 years under patent, yet NASA has never bothered to buy one and send it up there. Hint: it's not lack of funding.Now, a 3D sinterer making titanium stuff would be interesting. You would have to use some sort of temporary bonding agent to get the powder layers to stick, in the absence of gravity, sinter with the laser, then clean the non-sintered powder mass. But again, long production time, and to really get good results, you need to put the final product in an annealing furnace-good luck with that.In reality, the way to go is NOT to give everyone their own shitty plastic desktop printer. It is to give everyone design capacity (done, thanks, Sketchup and Inkscape) and on-demand near-real time access to industrial-quality digital fabrication capacity (which is what we are doing.)
Here in Philadelphia, we have a fabulous facility called "Nextfab" owned by the son of a billionaire cable guy (if sonny boy loses a few million on his hobby while staying out of trouble, the loss to dad is pocket change). I have a friend who is an inventor of sorts (the sort that never makes any money off of his inventions) who took me on a tour. For a membership fee plus per use charges, they will give you access to their whole facility, which includes not only high quality 3D printers but all sorts of cool toys - milling machines, water jet cutters, blah, blah, blah. - anything from traditional machine shop tools to the latest cutting edge stuff. All that being said, it was of zero use to me as a consumer. There is not a single damn thing I want to design in 3D and have printed for me. Nothing, nada. If I had the slightest use for any of it, I could get my friend to print it out for me, but after racking my brain I literally can't think of a single thing that I want 3D printed. Nothing, nada.K
Certainly sintered titanium (or other metal) would be better than plastic for a lot of applications but that's a whole different level of technology and expense. On my tour, my friend showed me a 3d printed wing corkscrew (done as a demo to show that you can print out things that have captive moving parts in one go - you don't print out the PIECES of the corkscrew and assemble them, you print out the WHOLE complete assembled corkscrew at once, which I admit is kind of a neat gimmick.) The only little problem was that the corkscrew was made of plastic and was not strong enough to open an actual bottle of wine. Just a slight problem.K
Right. That's the main issue.Sintered titanium costs about $600K for the machine. Ditto a laser cutter that will cut steel up to 3 cm thick, and about $50K for a bender. Nextfab has a cool suite of tools; the issue is that you have to find the time, learn to operate them, and then what? Fight for slots? And if you don't live nearby? And if you just want to make a piece of furniture with the Shopbot without having to spend a week learning how to use the damn thing? The Makerspaces are not a good idea except in the low end; in the high end, you need professional machine operators and a way to sell time.
When I was there, fighting for slots didn't look like it was a problem. They have staff that will train you on the use of the equipment and even run jobs for you (for a fee). But it didn't look like much was going on. If I want a piece of furniture I go to a place called "a furniture store".I tell you that this is a solution in search of a problem. There is no way that Nextfab is a viable business as it stands and I don't see it turning into one either. Industry needs some prototyping done - if they are big enough they do it in house or send it out to a machine shop. Or else everything is done in Asia.K
If you want a bespoke piece of furniture, you go to a carpenter and pay out the yang. If you want a custom stainless steel kitchen, cabinets and all, expect to pay about $15-20K. Ditto mech parts, custom gold and silver jewelry, laser-cut silk and leather for fashion, etc. And it's nascent-wait till people start writing apps that take some foot measurements, then spit out the cut files for a perfectly fitted leather shoe of whatever model you'd like. As a professional, I can tell you that Asia sucks. The turnaround is long, or you pay through the nose. Plus there is the language barrier. Beyond prototyping, you have small production runs, up to a thousand pieces or more, not worth setting up a factory for. Nextfab is NOT a viable business as it stands. We are making that next step happen.
YOU were the one talking about how furniture stores suck. Well, here is a potential fix. Quality material, not pressboard, made locally on demand to your specs, as artistic as you want.
Hmm, if you could make near-original quality reproductions of Chippendale furniture like this Diana and Minerva commode for a reasonable price, there would be buyers.
Good luck printing a Chippendale commode on your 3d printer.My friend needed a plastic part for his invention. He made one prototype at nextfab (looks kind of crude because you can see the lines like tree rings) and then for production he located an injection molder in India. They had very little communications problem and they shipping him a thousand of what he wanted at a low cost and problem free. And this was someone that he found randomly on Alibaba or something. He said that what he paid was much less than he would have paid just for the filament if he had 3d printed. Maybe it was just beginners luck. K
The problem with a shoe for example is that just making a last (which BTW is not that hard to do with old fashioned casting methods) is just step one of many steps. You could make a molded plastic shoe (like Crocs) but they suck. Making a fine leather shoe on a custom last (on any last) is a skilled trade involving sewing, gluing and many other skills and specialized pieces of equipment - this is why people haven't made their own shoes at home for hundreds of years and why they've been made in factories for the last 200 yrs. You are not going to reverse the industrial revolution.K
Reversing the industrial revolution is not the idea. Bringing the spiral around is.Obviously, nobody would print a Chippendale commode on a 3D printer. On the other hand, taking it apart, scanning each piece and cutting the files on a CNC router is quite doable. Likewise, leather shoes can be cut, a sole CNC milled, then all glued/stitched together with a CNC sewing machine. The idea is to automate customization. The problem is the paradigm-you can't do it with the "Star Trek Replicator" mindset.
Unless we have major advances in robotics, the CNC machines would be able to make PARTS for a shoe, a piece of furniture, etc. but the remaining steps will be as they always were. Someone is going to have to assemble the parts, sand and finish them, etc. Shoes will be made in a shoe factory and furniture will be made in a furniture factory because the specialized equipment and skills needed differs. Maybe the furniture factory and the shoe factory will have some CNC machines permitting more customization but there won't be an everything factory. And BTW, the factory will be in China or somewhere with low labor costs. A few years ago I ordered a laptop from HP on their website. There were a number of options for each model - speed of the CPU, amount of memory, size of hard disk, etc. The way it worked was that your order would be sent to their factory in Shanghai where they would custom build the laptop, they would put all that day's orders on a plane to Indianapolis , the boxes would then go into Fedex's regular package delivery stream and so it was on my doorstep maybe 36 hours after it left Shanghai. The only American involved was the Fedex driver.K
This is a design question; designing a workflow for maximum compatibility with bespoke digital fabrication for a shoe, cupboard, etc. Finishing is a separate thing; if you can get that Chippendale commode for $300 as a kit which you have to assemble (press-fit, like Legos,) and stain/paint, there will be a big market for that. Shoes I anticipate will be easier; if you look at something like the Patagonia Loulou (http://www.patagonia.com/us/product/mens-loulu-shoe?p=79513-0-520) it's pretty much a few pieces of leather stitched together. Jewelry is very easy-3D print in wax and cast, or sinter from gold or silver powder, or laser cut from sheets of metal.Labor is a minimal issue in this game. Your laptop is different-there is no custom work besides assembly, it is a high dollar, low-volume item. Start looking at things like furniture, the equation looks a bit different. And China's current position is an artifact of outdated geopolitical realities. With expensive energy and high unemployment in the US, the cost equation has already shifted for low-volume, customized products, and may shift for high-volume stuff.
I think you are underestimating the amount of skill and equipment needed to make even a simple shoe like the (particularly ugly) one in the picture. Try sewing that shoe together at home and then report back. Likewise, finishing is probably the hardest part of making fine furniture. Things that you can cast are promising - as you say you can 3d print the mold and then cast the object in metal and the objects can be high value - dental crowns, jewelry, etc. But there are limited applications. I'm not a jewelry designer. Any jewelry I designed would look like a 6 year old made it. I want a professional to do stuff like this for me.Is it possible to sell products that are not completely assembled and turn you into the manufacturers unpaid final assembly workforce? Sure, Ikea does it. But I think the applications are limited.K
The point is to write a parametric app which takes parameters and spits out files, or have an online design store/market, or both, so that the average user has access to professional unique/semi-unique designs. Finishing may or may not be difficult, depending. Again, it's a question of how you design the process. There are lots of DIY people out there, and a lot more who would be willing to do some work for a high-quality or unique product at an affordable price.
The question is, how big is this market? If it's 3 hipsters and 5 hippies, that's not a business model. Maybe it's big enough to sustain a niche (there are lots of people living in very nice houses paid for by a niche that was just big enough for them to occupy) that but this doesn't strike me as Facebook kind of thing where everyone on earth will want to join up. K
The potential market size depends on execution. If you make this thing easy enough to use, its potential market is comparable with that of Amazon. If you can have a bespoke ring or bookshelf or a pair of shoes at the same price as that of a mid-market mass-produced analog, your potential market is all of the current mid to upper-range consumers of those goods.
That's a very big if. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think the technology is at a point where it can spit out custom made rings, bookshelves and shoes at a price and quality comparable to mid market items and I'm not sure I see how to get there - surely not by printing these things out in plastic filament. The rings are probably the only one that is close to reality. That could be a very nice niche just by itself. Israel I believe has an advanced jewelry industry. Why don't you start with that? Amazon started by selling just books.K
I have the perfect name for B's custom jewelry business, "B's Baubles."
I had an 18 carat gold ring printed out of wax, cast and polished for about $200. I also know guys making furniture on CNC routers (Shopbots and such) with great success. Laser cut silk and leather are taking off, as are laser cut and bent sheet metal cabinets.What I am doing is creating a one-size fits all solution, then pulling in capacity and marketing based on what comes in. It's like Wordpress-they built a loop for a blog, but it very quickly turned out that the loop was equally good for all kinds of other stuff.
Same with Amazon - they built a platform for selling books but then used it to sell everything. But first they sold books. I think you have to roll out with one focus, get that loop working smoothly and only then add others.K
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