3D Printing

Friday, March 08, 2013


Desktop 3D printing has the potential to change our understanding of the 'ownership' of objects. Rather than buying many of the things we get at stores, 3D printing will allow you to make them at home. Bob talks with Chris Anderson, CEO of 3D Robotics and author of Makers: The New Industrial Revolution, who says the potential of this burgeoning technology is enormous. 


Chris Anderson

Hosted by:

Bob Garfield

Comments [8]

Holly James

3D printing blows my mind. I work for an animated marketing video production company and they recently bought one. We can now print out the characters that we designed on the computer. I could never understand how it works but it's an awesome new technology! http://www.vizkick.com

Mar. 13 2013 02:59 PM

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Mar. 13 2013 10:32 AM
Terry McKenna from Dover NJ

Hi Jim - cast metals don't have the same qualities as worked metals. This brittle cast iron compared to tough wrought iron. and by the way, as a former art students, I've done plaster, resin and cement casts. The point i am making is for practical devices, (able to stand up to heat etc) it take a lot more than what 3d printing promises.

Remember the paperless office predicted in the 80s? The same over enthusiasm is being devoted to 3d printing. We won't all be manufacturers, just as we won't all grow our own food.

Mar. 12 2013 08:06 PM

For the lack of metal printing you can go to casting. Very fine work can be done in the lost wax process (~5000 years old) or its modern hi-tech version investment casting. Producing very intricate sculpture or precisely made parts from a master made of wax (which 3D printers also work with) or plastic. Home aluminum casting seems moderately common, amateur jewelers cast gold, sliver, copper, and bronze at home. Cast iron has been done with a cupola furnace tossed together from 2 55 gallon barrels and a vacuum cleaner. For steel alloys the Goldschmidt process (thermite) allows for adding alloying elements like nickel from nickel oxide or 50/50 bars. Heat treatment is mostly done on a send it out basis around here. I expect that there are techniques for doing it at home also or just designing around the problem.
On the other hand I expect that much of the work will be repair parts that you just cannot buy anymore or custom problem solving like a soap dish that fits exactly to my sink.
I seem to remember “Never bet against the cheap plastic substitute”

Mar. 12 2013 03:43 PM
Grant Randall from Boston, Ma

I enjoyed Chris Anderson's thoughts but was surprised by the discussion of the quandry brought on by the possibility of printing working guns. Bob imagines the dystopia of the democratization of the production: "Will they steal intellectual property from others? Will they make guns and nuclear triggers?". Chris answers, "Well, you can't print a gun. You can print part of a gun..." I immediately remembered reading, months ago, about someone who had printed an entire working handgun. Here is a link: http://fxn.ws/10xVDv6.

Now, the interesting part. With roughly 31.9 million results for the google search "3d print gun" and this article from Fox News posted above coming in as my 7th result, I thought there was no way I was the only person to challenge Chris's words as I listened along. And I almost didn't write this post. Then I thought of the Genovese syndrome and realized I'd like to know how many people did write into the show about this. The show's theme begs the question does the democratization of publishing, writing anything on the internet as I am doing now, create a de facto sea of On The Media ombudsmen? Or does it merely create the illusion of a sea of ombudsmen a la the bystander effect? Is facebook subject to the same effect as radio because of a perceived wide audience by each discrete OTM superfan? How does reddit overcome this effect in convincing it's users that their input on each thread is important, nay imperative to the health of each story? If too many people see the tree fall, is the sound old news?

I guess this is why BB, Santa, and St. Peter are all singular.

Mar. 11 2013 09:20 PM
Josh from New Hampshire

I think that the greater potential safety concern above and beyond the possibility of a 3d printed gun would be the at home manufacturing of parts without quality control or engineering scrutiny. Materials used in the manufacturing process are selected for conditions such as heat, stress, or strain specific to the application. I can see where without proper engineering controls; an inferior part could be made at home, posing huge risks of equipment failure. The consequences could be disastrous. Think of when corners are cut in the manufacturing process in industrial history. People have died and companies have been held accountable. Where is the liability? I see the innovation of 3d printing as the author of yet to come chapters of Darwin awards, unless this is addressed with regulation.

Mar. 11 2013 02:14 AM
Rebecca from Los Angeles, Ca


On the one hand, I imagine you are correct, at least about the frisbee and similar objects. However, no one who has actually been around or used them (the college where I work has two) expects that they will be used to make mere personal copies of such cheap and otherwise easy to acquire items. In addition to its many salutary applications, the 3d printer is, and will continue to be, used to produce items that are either controlled or prohibited as a way to get around and invalidate those prohibitions. Don't believe me? Defense Distributed has made it their mission to enable the production of guns and magazines to make any potential future gun legislation unenforceable.

Nor does the fact that the 'printed' products are not metal present any particular problem. A prototype AR-15 lower (the part of the gun which is serialized and controlled) able to fire 600+ rounds is already in existence and I am sure they are hard at work improving on the design as well as developing designs for other such items.

Mar. 09 2013 04:28 PM
Terry McKenna from Dover NJ

I have heard a lot about 3d printing and can only wonder if anyone who has spoken on the topic has ever: a) printed an HD color picture, b) worked with metal (bent, drilled, etc.). Sure a 3d printer can help a toy maker or person who builds architectural models, but my guess is the the first time a person tries to print a 3d print version of a frisbee, he will decide, next time it's probably cheaper, quicker to buy one from Toys R Us. (Or have you ever bought color inks for your desk printer? or waited impatiently for a color picture to print and then dry).

And then there is metal. I invite the show to talk to a machinist - sorry, i can't imagine a 3d printer being able to replicate the many different properties of metal - we may eventually be able to make some sort of metal - no doubt brittle - in a 3d printer (maybe they do this now). but to get a tough, flexible metal, maybe even heat treated! this will only come the day before they invent the tele-transporter.

Mar. 09 2013 07:58 AM

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