How the press has looked at 3D printing over the years

popular mechanics 2007

A Popular Mechanics article from 2007

Though 3D printing technology is 20 years old, the mainstream press only became interested in the technology around 2007. At that point the technology was looked at as something out of science fiction–not for anything useful, but never the less very interesting. The initial interest died quickly.

But then in 2011, there was a new surge of interest. This time around most critiques wondered if 3D printing was really the next big thing, would it change manufacturing as we know it today and would it help developed countries reverse the process of outsourcing manufacturing facilities to more cost effective locations.

Here are ten such articles with an extract of the key points mentioned. You can clearly see how the perception has changed.

April 2007 – AEC Cafe: 3D Printing Comes to Architecture

The 3D printer has been used mostly for 3D solid modeling for the automotive, aerospace and other industries in the mechanical marketplace, but has been increasingly employed by architectural firms to do physical 3D models.

Created for their client a 157 square-foot replica 3D model of the city of Stockholm using a 3D printer and Google Earth.

Details about state of 3D printer mentioned in the article:

- Price: Anywhere from $18K to $30K
- Manufacturer: Stratasys

2007 October – Popular Mechanics: Fab at Home, Open-Source 3D Printer, Lets Users Make Anything

Picture a 3D inkjet printer that deposits droplets of plastic, layer by layer, gradually building up an object of any shape.

To really let this robotic evolutionary process reach its full potential we need a machine that can fabricate anything, not just complex geometry, but also wires and motors and sensors and actuators.

It is a revolution waiting to happen.

Details about state of 3D printer mentioned in the article:

- Price: A Fab at Home kit costs around $2400

November 2007 – Economist: A whole new dimension – Rich homes can afford 3D printers

If you really want to impress your friends with high-tech wizardry in 2008 then consider shopping for a three-dimensional printer.

Wizardry is the right word for a 3D printer.

Possible uses mentioned in the article:

- Making models of buildings for architects,
- Drug molecules for pharmaceutical companies and
- Shoes for fashion companies
- Usable one-off parts for airplanes and F1 racing cars
- Print from powdered gold and shake up the jewelry-design business

Details about state of 3D printer mentioned in the article:

- Price: Likely to go under $5,000 during 2008
- Size: Commercial models are about the size of a domestic fridge
- Manufacturer: Z Corp, 3D Systems

December 2007 – The Wall Street Journal: How 3-D Printing Figures To Turn Web Worlds Real

Bringing such fantasy (video game) characters to life is possible thanks to the technology of 3D printers, which turn three-dimensional computer images into three-dimensional objects.

For 20 years, 3D printers have primarily been used in labs and research groups at auto makers, aerospace companies and other design-intensive businesses. But during the next 12 months, 3D printing will move closer to the mainstream.

Possible uses mentioned in the article:

- 3D models of mountains and other terrain priced at under $100
- Make figures from the online world Second Life

Details about state of 3D printer mentioned in the article:

- Price: More-affordable machines priced below $20,000 and $5,000 3D printer next year
- Manufacturer: Z Corp, Stratasys Inc, Desktop Factory Inc
- Sales: In the past two years alone, it has sold around 8,000 machines

December 2007 – CNET: Trends 2008: Will 3D printing finally go mainstream?

“And yet, we’re still sitting here with our seatbelts fastened–but the wild ride has yet to occur. Aside from the above-mentioned niche sites, the big mainstream push from Generation C (C = content) to Generation 3D has been lost somewhere along the way. When will big retailers start to add 3D printing features to their sites? Where are the powerful brands or smart start-ups embracing the model? When will see the YouTube of 3D printing?”

Possible uses mentioned in the article:

- Online service to allow consumers to design their own personalized and customized 3D object
- 3D models of mountains and other topographic 3D maps
- 3D models of virtual characters (from virtual worlds or games)

[3 year gap...]

January 2011 – The New York Times: The Wow Factor of 3-D Printing

3D printers are the best thing to come out of the labs in a long time because they allow for the manipulation of reality instead of virtual space.

Recently, though, a new crop of 3D printers and services has arrived to make this type of technology affordable for consumers.

You go to its Web site and pick objects that other people have designed, tweak these designs or use the company’s Web software to design something from scratch. Then, you simply order the product, and a few days later, the object arrives at your doorstep.

Possible uses mentioned in the article:

- Making toys, exotic ornaments, chess sets and toothpaste tube squeezers

Details about state of 3D printer mentioned in the article:

- Price: At $15,000 you can buy a pretty decent machine and hobbyist kits at $1,000 to $2,000 range
- Size: I had a machine 2 feet wide, 2 feet long and 2.3 feet tall

February 2011 – The Economist: Print me a Stradivarius – How a new manufacturing technology will change the world

economist media articleThe industrial revolution of the late 18th century made possible the mass production of goods, thereby creating economies of scale which changed the economy—and society—in ways that nobody could have imagined at the time. Now a new manufacturing technology has emerged which does the opposite.

A technological change so profound will reset the economics of manufacturing. Some believe it will decentralize the business completely, reversing the urbanization that accompanies industrialization. Others believe that by reducing the need for factory workers, 3D printing will undermine the advantage of low-cost, low-wage countries and thus repatriate manufacturing capacity to the rich world.

Just as nobody could have predicted the impact of the steam engine in 1750—or the printing press in 1450, or the transistor in 1950—it is impossible to foresee the long-term impact of 3D printing. But the technology is coming, and it is likely to disrupt every field it touches.
Possible uses mentioned in the article:

- A spare part for your car, a lampshade, a violin

Details about state of 3D printer mentioned in the article:

- Price: Basic 3D printer now costs less than a laser printer did in 1985

June 2011 – CNet News: 3D printing creating ‘a whole new world’

3D printing designers are truly on the verge of breaking open the traditional design world paradigms and really changing things.

It could be that 3D printing never quite becomes cheap enough to give enough companies enough margins to make a go of it. As well, the traditional product manufacturers in China, Taiwan, and elsewhere aren’t going anywhere. It could be that 3D printing is never more than a rounding error in the global market for consumer products.

Details about state of 3D printer mentioned in the article:

- Manufacturer: 3D Systems, Stratosys, Objet, Z Corporation
- Installed base: Two years ago there were about 40,000 machines in the world. By the end of this year, that number is probably going to hit 100,000

February 2012 – Mashable: Everything You Wanted to Know About 3D Printing But Were Too Afraid to Ask

3D printing is a mind-blowing process, but you might be surprised to learn that it’s not a new technology. It was developed in the late ’80s and has been used extensively for prototyping.

What’s new is that the technology is no longer reserved for big companies — in recent years, it has finally made the jump to the mainstream consumer market.

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could give someone you care about something you customized and personalized for that person? That’s where 3D printing comes in.

It’s not a need-based business, but a want-based one.

A lot of things — even things we don’t know and that aren’t yet possible — will be 3D printed.
Possible uses mentioned in the article:

- Boeing and Airbus have already 3D-printed certain pieces of their aircraft
- 3D-printing has proven useful in medicine, where it’s been used to print jawbones, prosthetics and replacement hips
- Some printers can print in concrete, meaning that some time down the line, we’ll be able to print buildings
- A major development is the printing of crude forms of semiconductors … (it may not) take much more than five years before we can see the first 3D-printed circuitry
Details about state of 3D printer mentioned in the article:
- Manufactures: Shapeways
- Size: The printers are about the size of a large filing cabinet

March 2012 – Forbes: Will 3D Printing Change The World?

Welcome to 3D printing. A vessel’s computers may one day have a
 database of 3-Dimensional CAD (Computer Aided Design) images of each and every part on the ship, from nuts to bolts, all the way up to complex engine parts. If any of these should fail, the printer could have a suitable, made-to-spec replacement in a matter of minutes to hours.

We are going to live in a world where anyone can create and customize, and iterate with blinding speed.

Just like the Industrial Revolution, the assembly line, the advent of the internet and the Social Media phenomenon, 3D Printing will be a game changer.

‘Could the cheap trade deficit with China be solved with 3D printing, by bringing more manufacturing back to the US’? This remains to be seen, but experts agree this idea is within the realm of possibility.

Possible uses mentioned in the article:

- Spare part in mid ocean
- Custom and hard-to-find parts from scratch
- High quality artificial limb

Details about state of 3D printer mentioned in the article:

- Price: Fully functional plug and play 3D printer for only $1299 being launched
- Manufacturer: Stratasys, 3D Systems

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