Tobold's Blog
Friday, September 23, 2022
Giving up on 3D printing?

I bought a new board game, Massive Darkness 2. It comes with flat cardboard tokens for doors, and the way they are printed makes it very hard to see whether the door is open or shut. A YouTuber I watched who was streaming gameplay of that game recommended getting 3D plastic doors, which are available on Amazon for a similar game, Zombicide. And so I ordered them from Amazon.

It felt a bit like a betrayal to the two unused 3D printers I still have. I could have 3D printed those doors. Figurines and terrain at 25-mm scale are typically what I used my printers for. And because these parts don't have to be especially flexible or resistant, they are a good application for 3D printing. Printing parts that undergo stress or have to hold loads is a lot more difficult. But the commercial doors are a bit prettier than I could have printed them, and come in parts of multiple colors. Which is not impossible with my 3D printers, but it would require changing the filament. And Amazon can deliver those doors nearly as fast as I can print them. So in the end I went for the commercial option with less hassle.

One reason I didn't want to reactivate my 3D printers was that after a time of not using them, they are likely to fail. This isn't plug & play technology. If you print every day, it works fine. If you let it stand for a while, the machine might fail, or you might simply forget steps in the relatively complex procedure of getting towards a good print. I had to disassemble my 3D printers several times, which is not something you experience with the type of printers that just put ink or toner on a piece of paper.

Printing something on paper is not a hobby, you do it for the utility. 3D printing is the opposite, the utility is relatively low, and there is a large hobby element. I am happy to have done that for a while, but I am not sure whether I will not just simply give up on this hobby now that I don't need so many figurines anymore.

I am not convinced as an outsider that 3D printing is ready for the mainstream yet. Everything I've read about it makes it sound fiddly and prone to wasting materials on a bad print.

I have thought about buying paper printer for my house. They are good for printing flat board components and cards. I used to print a lot when I was younger. However, I just don't print enough hobby stuff any more for it to be really worth it.
I had big hopes for personal 3D printing. I was hoping that it would be as ubiquitous as paper printing. I'm guessing that we can still get there, but since there really is no comparison between the two I don't think it's a given. Even paper printing had a slow ramp-up to being ubiquitous though. I think it was a few decades before the technology came out before it was widespread.

Ease of use seems to be a prerequisite for something to be ubiquitous so I'm guessing that it won't be until there is a sufficiently developed AI that will handle most of the "heavy lifting" for people.

I hope people don't give up on it though, we need those early and early'ish adopters to help with the iterative process (by providing feedback, showing strengths and weaknesses, etc). I'd love to someday be able to 3D print my own car wheels out of raw materials that I source. Doubtful, but it sure would be cool to see the impact that has on the world.
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