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  1. #1
    ^He pronks, too! Magic Poriferan's Avatar
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    Default Could 3D Printing end the economy as we know it?

    End the economy as we know it is of course a lofty statement with a yellow journalism tinge to it, but I'm quite serious.

    Technology in this field has been making leaps and bounds, a profound effect of which is that the casual availability of 3D printers have been sky-rocketing. They've been getting cheaper, smaller, and faster in their operations, with no reason to assume that development is going to hit a dead end next year.

    The potential value of 3D printers is awesome, almost hard to envision. In that fact lies to serious implications for our economy. How many people will lose manufacturing jobs to 3D Printers? How many businesses will lose profits to consumers who would prefer to just print their own products? How much innovation will be taken over by general consumers and how much further will intellectual property laws fall apart? The raw resources are a practical commodity, but in many ways 3D printers cause physical goods to take on the aspects of digital goods. If you had a fast working 3D printer which can work with many mediums (and you'd be amazed how many mediums they can already work with), you could basically just have a "kitchen" of production materials, download or design models on your computers, and print to your heart's desire.

    In this sub-forum we talk a lot about economic policy, suggesting what we should do with taxes, funding, trade, regulations, and so on. But our suggestions are pretty limited to the past and present. Things like the 3D printing remind me that a complete invalidation of all our proposals could be lurking around the corner.

    General overview of 3D printing if your aren't familiar.

    And here are some examples of crazy things done with 3D printers.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Lateralus's Avatar
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    No, until we have devices that can "print" food, complex electrical and mechanical devices, or something else people actually want, these will be nothing more than a novelty for the vast majority of consumers.
    "We grow up thinking that beliefs are something to be proud of, but they're really nothing but opinions one refuses to reconsider. Beliefs are easy. The stronger your beliefs are, the less open you are to growth and wisdom, because "strength of belief" is only the intensity with which you resist questioning yourself. As soon as you are proud of a belief, as soon as you think it adds something to who you are, then you've made it a part of your ego."

  3. #3
    ^He pronks, too! Magic Poriferan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lateralus View Post
    No, until we have devices that can "print" food, complex electrical and mechanical devices, or something else people actually want, these will be nothing more than a novelty for the vast majority of consumers.
    Food is unlikely. Complex mechanical devices is in our near future, I would guess. Electronics is a little trickier, but I already saw someone make a cell phone (it did, mind you, require many steps and many different kinds of devices at this point in time, but it was still impressive). If all these things were safe, maybe the economy would hardly be effected, but if only food remains and mechanical and electronic devices are taken over, it would seriously effect the economy.

    That being said, the categories you put forward don't include all the things people want anyhow. Even in their current form, you can use them to make hammers, mugs, clothes-pins, etc..

    My favorite kind of 3D printing is the kind that involves stem cells. I'm not sure how much that will directly effect the economy but it can certainly effect our society.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member Lateralus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Magic Poriferan View Post
    Food is unlikely. Complex mechanical devices is in our near future, I would guess. Electronics is a little trickier, but I already saw someone make a cell phone (it did, mind you, require many steps and many different kinds of devices at this point in time, but it was still impressive). If all these things were safe, maybe the economy would hardly be effected, but if only food remains and mechanical and electronic devices are taken over, it would seriously effect the economy.

    That being said, the categories you put forward don't include all the things people want anyhow. Even in their current form, you can use them to make hammers, mugs, clothes-pins, etc..

    My favorite kind of 3D printing is the kind that involves stem cells. I'm not sure how much that will directly effect the economy but it can certainly effect our society.
    I don't see how you could "print" an electronic device like a cell phone in the foreseeable future. For example, the iPhone 5 uses a CPU which is manufactured using a high temperature silicon fabrication process (silicon melts at around 2500F). I could be ignorant here, but I don't know how you could fabricate a chip like that at a low temperature. There are some low temperature silicon fabrication processes, but they're for much, much simpler devices (like diodes and simple ICs).
    "We grow up thinking that beliefs are something to be proud of, but they're really nothing but opinions one refuses to reconsider. Beliefs are easy. The stronger your beliefs are, the less open you are to growth and wisdom, because "strength of belief" is only the intensity with which you resist questioning yourself. As soon as you are proud of a belief, as soon as you think it adds something to who you are, then you've made it a part of your ego."

  5. #5
    Senior Member ptgatsby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Magic Poriferan View Post
    End the economy as we know it is of course a lofty statement with a yellow journalism tinge to it, but I'm quite serious.
    No, because as Lat said, material matter a lot. A plate is not a glass is not a chair is not clothing is not a volatile. On the other hand... it is going to cause a pretty major upheaval. It's the equivalent of printing houses being widespread. Not as big of a deal as the revolution of writing/paper/etc for the masses, but not minor enough to be trivial. I don't think everyone will have one, at least not for a very long time (and given some serious technical hurdles in materials), but a shop that has a few types that specialize seem likely.

    Ultimately, though, materialism is already on the decline. It exists for social status more than anything now and that's progressively going digital. It's just a natural progression into reducing the amount of labor for goods. Another blow to intellectual property? Maybe. However, you don't need a lot of intellectual property to generate items in a digital world. Somewhere, someone... is writing a song, writing a book or making a 3d model... just for the act of creation. The real blow against intellectual property isn't the copying of people's ideas, it's the distribution of free ideas.

    It definitely won't be the end of scarcity. But look around the room you are in - the baseboards could be custom, the handle on the door, the cabinets, the dresser, that lamp, the picture frame... That's what it means to me.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Lateralus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ptgatsby View Post
    It definitely won't be the end of scarcity. But look around the room you are in - the baseboards could be custom, the handle on the door, the cabinets, the dresser, that lamp, the picture frame... That's what it means to me.
    Plastic baseboards and cabinets could be super cheap, but if you want cherry cabinets, you're probably going to a place like Home Depot. And that's before we even start talking about installation.
    "We grow up thinking that beliefs are something to be proud of, but they're really nothing but opinions one refuses to reconsider. Beliefs are easy. The stronger your beliefs are, the less open you are to growth and wisdom, because "strength of belief" is only the intensity with which you resist questioning yourself. As soon as you are proud of a belief, as soon as you think it adds something to who you are, then you've made it a part of your ego."

  7. #7
    Senior Member ptgatsby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lateralus View Post
    Plastic baseboards and cabinets could be super cheap, but if you want cherry cabinets, you're probably going to a place like Home Depot. And that's before we even start talking about installation.
    Most stuff in a 3d printer will probably be more expensive... the material isn't that cheap yet. Maybe someday... A major advantage is they can do full color though!

    It was more just a list of possibilities - artistic more than anything else. Cherry cabinets are more a statement than natural beauty. Maybe it'll stay for that reason, maybe it'll be transformed into something more "artistic". I could see it going either way, even differing between cultures. All I know is that I could print off some pretty nifty cabinets without having to paint them, in high res (I think .1 mm now?), and with full 3d engraving. I mean, when you search for cabinets in google images, you get a million (... literally) wood cabinets. And they all look the same. That's what I'm excited about.

    Installation will get easier, although mainstream might not be reasonable in the near future. Interfaces is the advantage 3d printers bring - you can design them to fit what you want (ie: integrated hinges, rather than component pieces). The real issue is the material; is it really durable, environmentally tolerant, non-reactive? Getting there, but weight to strength isn't there yet.

  8. #8
    Mojibake sprinkles's Avatar
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    Manufactured goods are a bubble anyway. It's just been a really long lasting one. Intellectual property was also never meant to act as a money generating right of some kind - it's for the most part meant to be an incentive to innovate and invest in production which has inherent risks. When anyone can make something, the risk is eliminated, and therefore the need for IP as it pertains to patented items and such is also eliminated.

    Being able to make your own stuff gives freedom if you ask me. There might be less job types in the future but ideally there will also be less need to work and less need to spend money to survive.

  9. #9
    Honor Thy Inferior Such Irony's Avatar
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    How can you truly replicate something if you don't know the material composition of the original object? Or unless the printer contains those exact same materials that the original object was made of, you're just replicating the shape, not the object. Kind of like printing a copy of a gold figurine and the printer spits out a cheap plastic one.

    Which is why you can't really replicate food at this point. There's thousands of chemicals in a fairly specific proportion.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member UniqueMixture's Avatar
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    re: printing of circuitry. http://hackaday.com/2012/05/22/3d-pr...onductive-ink/

    it's been done for years now
    For all that we have done, as a civilization, as individuals, the universe is not stable, and nor is any single thing within it. Stars consume themselves, the universe itself rushes apart, and we ourselves are composed of matter in constant flux. Colonies of cells in temporary alliance, replicating and decaying and housed within, an incandescent cloud of electrical impulses. This is reality, this is self knowledge, and the perception of it will, of course, make you dizzy.

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