3D Printing: Commonplace?

Now that I’ve been working with 3D printing for as long as I have (and seen what Tomas was able to get done with it before he left), I’m getting to the point that it’s becoming more difficult to impress me with different makes. I was at a meeting the other day where an item was presented that had been 3D printed, and I’d actually just been looking at that item on Thingiverse a few weeks earlier. True, it takes some knowhow to calibrate a 3D printer and to arrange things so that the prints are clean, but more and more, it’s to the point that 3D printing something is about as difficult as laser printing something. I commented to a friend that no one congratulates me when I print off an agenda from online, but that’s typically more complicated than printing something 3D. I wrote the agenda myself, after all.

That said, if you’re out there making your own 3D models, then I am still more than a little impressed.

By making this observation, I’m not meaning to put down the people who continue to be wowed by the technology involved in makerspaces. If you’ve never seen what they can do, or (better yet) used one yourself, then printing off a file can seem like a creative, involved endeavor. It’s just that I feel sheepish when people are impressed with something that basic. As if I’m taking credit for something difficult that wasn’t hard at all.

The same thing happens for me when I help people with computer issues. They’ll be struggling with something for a long time, and then I step in and get it done with a few key clicks. On the one hand, I’m happy I could help them out. On the other, I feel bad that they spent so long trying to get something done that should have only taken a minute or two.

Not that I’m immune from the phenomenon. After all. I regularly take my car in for routine things like oil changes, and I happily pay them good money to do something that I know (in theory) isn’t that hard to do myself. A good YouTube video would probably show me everything I need to do. But I’ve never done it, and so it continues to be something I don’t really understand.

When 3D printing first came out, I wasn’t sure if it was something that would ever be anything more than a gimmick. Now, I view it as something that will inevitably become as commonplace as laser printers. Things like basic tools and components will be easier and easier to come by. If you need a part to fix something in your house, chances are you’ll be able to get it without any shipping involved.

The more people can get accustomed to what’s out there, the better for them. It’s not magic, and it’s not even very difficult. But I can see why it may seem that way. The sooner we can get people to understand it, the better.


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