Saturday, August 9, 2014

Functional prints are boring

Lately I've been hearing this same refrain in a number of different voices:
If 3D printing is supposed to be so great, how come all anyone ever prints is stupid stuff?
I'm sorry that giving hands to children where making an expensive prosthetic they're going to grow out of just isn't practical isn't enought for you. It's too bad you're tired of talking about making weapons available to people despite what their government says they should and shouldn't have. And I that generation of young inventors it's inspiring and enabling isn't enough for you. If someone decides they want to print something frivolous to perfect their use of the technology, then by golly they deserve your ridicule.

Okay, fine, I got a functional print for you.
I bought an LED light strip to make my skypes (and other things) properly illuminated. But I discovered when I mounted it that pointing down wasn't the best solution. I needed to mount it facing outwards. So I made an adapter that hooks into the screw and allows me to hook the LED strip into it.
And it works great. So why don't I upload this model to youmagine and share it with the world? Because it took me all of 15 minutes to model, and unless you have the same LED strip I do and have the same problem I do, I don't see this being of help to many people. There's, maybe, two people in the whole world who needs this besides me, and I'm the only one with a 3D printer.

On the other hand here's a travel case for a micro board game. Almost 6000 people got almost 8000 copies through kickstarter, I'm positive more than a few people want one of these.
Do you see my point? A functional print has practical appeal to people who are in the same situation as you, but a piece of art or a toy appeals to everyone. So it's not that 3D printer aren't being used for practical things, it's just that no one is talking about the practical applications of 3D printing as much as their talking about the fun and cool applications of 3D printing.

EDIT: I seem to be rubbing some folks the wrong way. I don't mean to say that all functional prints should be ignored because they don't excite me. Just that when selling the idea if 3d printing a less utilitarian print does a better job. But I would never pass up on a functional print I needed because it didn't excite me. I print functional things all the time. I just don't talk about them as much as the fun stuff because I know what my audience as the body of humanity wants. Maybe functional prints excite you. I would guess you're in the minority.

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