Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Friday January 03 2014

Occasionally I visit my two favourite electronic toy stores, Maplin’s and PC World, both in Tottenham Court Road, much of the reason they are both favourites being that I can visit both in one easy go, by walking down Tottenham Court Road from Warren Street, which is an easy ride from my nearest tube, Pimlico.

On my latest visit to PC World, I spied a 3D printer, looking rather forlorn and ignored, under a big sign saying SALE:

image

Around its base, you can just about make out various pointless florescent yellowy-green objects – semi-fish sculptures, very untrustworthy receptacles, ugly and uncomfortable bodily adornments, replacement chess pieces, and the like.  These objects come out badly in a photo of my sort because of their flourescence, which changes them, from regular objects with shapes and shadows into feeble and rather shadowless (and hence also rather shapeless) light bulbs.

As you can probably just about make out, for the privilege of owning this absurd device, you are asked to part with £1,195, although my bet is that a near offer might well suffice.

The domestic 3D printer, as I foresaw (that’s a Samizdata piece posted a year and a half ago), has so far been a classic dog-that-hasn’t-barked.  Will it ever?  That will require a killer app - objects easily and repeated made with a domestic 3D printer for a few pennies, not easily obtainable by just buying them, … and for the life of me I cannot think of such an object.  Ornamental food is my best shot.  Something hot, or maybe cold, which makes it hard to buy, even locally.  No doubt someone will think of something, and then 3D printing will erupt into popular affection and derision the way it hasn’t at all so far.

As Samizdata commenter Shirley Knott said:

I, for one, expect to be taken by surprise.

Me too.

Domestic printers were different, even when at their most primitive, e.g done with mechanised typewriting with ribbons or with little alphabet balls – or with big ugly dots.  Bits of paper, different every time but in the same format, saying different things each time but with the same black gunk every time, well, that’s a very useful process to have on tap.  A relentless supply of flourescent semi-fish, forget it.

Nevertheless, as other Samizdata commenters make very clear, 3D printing is already a huge contributor to the regular manufacturing economy, just as computers were, long before they also went domestic.

Someone should, as stated in the piece at the other end of the link, apply (better) 3D printing to this, and I bet someone is doing this, even as I blog.

I just googled (images) 3d printing architectural modelling.  Wow.