back to article How hard is 3D printing?

If you want to make your own gun or harboured a desire to make a boat perhaps the device you need is a 3D Printer. In principle it sounds easy: just download a 3D model from the net, throw it at the printer, and whatever you desire comes out the other end. MakerBot The Replicator MakerBot's The Replicator The truth is, it’ …


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  1. Dick Pountain

    Christmas crackers and cornflake packets

    It's a great technology for making small plastic gewgaws very slowly and very cheaply. I await with interest the developments that will enable it to work with steel, light alloy, titanium, tungsten carbide, and do it faster than casting or forging can do. (Wow, I've just printed my own oil tanker!)

    1. Geoff Campbell

      Re: Christmas crackers and cornflake packets

      Metal support is already here.

      I was at one of the trade shows a while ago, there is at least one company doing additive manufacturing with metals. The machine uses a different process, fusing a bed of powder with a high-power laser (no sign of any sharks in the model I saw, sadly). This allows for some fascinating light-weight metal structures to be made.

      I think the company I spoke to are only leasing machines currently, and they are at the eye-watering, if-Sir-needs-to-ask end of the cost range, but they do exist.


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Metal

        Metal printing is also known as Laser Sintering it is pretty quick for one off and low volume parts, especially since it can make as many parts that will fit in the cube at once. I have seen Aluminium and Titanium in use but the process works for many types of metal (generally the lower melting point types!).

        These Titanium parts for Bloodhound SSC have been on show in various places, they are a fairly rough build similar to a good sand cast, but the process can produce higher tolerance 'smooth' parts also if required.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Metal

          Not only that, but SLS (selective laser sintering) can produce parts with superior properties to those made by traditional processes. You can even achieve 'property gradients' if you require them- for example, a beam that varies in stiffness along its length.

          . It is used, as you would expect, in the fields of aerospace and motorsport.

        2. Colin Miller

          Re: Metal

          There's also jet cutting, which can produce complex shapes,

          but needs a clear path through, so can't build tubs, etc.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Metal

            Home printing destroying the Christmas Cracker industry!

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Metal

              Don't worry, they haven't written software to write shit jokes yet!

              1. Anonymous Coward

                Re: Metal

                Who needs a computer program to write shit jokes?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Oil tanker?

      I'm not a shipbuilder but I'd imagine big ships would be made mostly out of rolled steel. Not much to be gained there from this approach. AFAIK you can already do this "additive manufacturing" shtick with metals, if in a machine about the size and probably not quite the price this was ten years ago, but whether the results would be strong enough for, say, a small motor (or model jet engine) I don't know. Anyone? El reg?

      1. Eddie Edwards

        Good enough for NASA

        Well NASA evaluated the process years ago and said it was good enough for production parts.

      2. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Oil tanker?

        @ 08:08 GMT Anonymous Coward

        Gives details of materials (including titanium, aluminium and steel alloys), specifications, and also applications as end-use parts in aerospace.

        "...for a new engine coming out next year, GE is planning to print them [jet engine parts] in cobalt-chrome."

        " including 32 different [printed] components for its [Boeing's] 787 Dreamliner planes."

        As for jet turbine blades... Rolls Royce blades are a single crystal of titanium (temperature controlled lost wax casting), so I wouldn't expect 3D printed blades to be as good. For a model aircraft engine though, you wouldn't be as concerned about strength/weight/safety.

    3. Eddy Ito

      Re: Christmas crackers and cornflake packets

      "It's a great technology for making small plastic gewgaws very slowly and very cheaply."

      Granted the current set of vulture heads cost 12 pence in plastic which would qualify as very cheaply but there is the matter of the capital cost of the machine which adds about $500 to the price of each of the four heads. Then there is the other expense that everyone seems to neglect, power. Perhaps the good folks at El Reg could cook up another vulture head with a watt meter attached and record how many watt hours it takes. Oh don't forget to measure the preheat time separately since you could do several in one go if they are small enough.

  2. Arrrggghh-otron


    "Looking at the online libraries of available things there is very little, gun parts aside, that is actually useful and most of those are probably best bought in a shop."

    There are loads of useful things on thingiverse, you just have to get through all the cruft and have an application for the useful things (they are usually fairly specific replacement parts for cars, appliances and furniture).

    I'm guessing you are printing ABS at those temperatures. Try dissolving some ABS in acetone and using it as a glue to prime the bed with... otherwise try printing in PLA at lower temperatures. I have only had a couple of parts come of the bed with PLA and never need to print rafts.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Useful?

      An obvious example of something useful would be the spare parts that white goods manufacturers charge for... A door latch component on our tumble-drier failed, it has warped in the heat (poor material choice). The Whirlpool website was very slick, and smoothly offered to take £18 off us a replacement latch, a part that really could have cost no more than 20p to make.

      Were 3D printers more common place, this business model (be competitively priced at retail, charge plenty for spares) could be dented.

      I gave a shout to Ben Heck the other day, (in relation to an article about Valve exploring new games controllers) and I will do so again: he routinely uses 3D printers and CNC machine for a variety of projects that I am sure Reg readers will approve of (such as a C64 style case for a Raspberry Pi), and produces videos about his exploits. You can do worse than Google his name and check out his website.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Useful?

      An obvious example of something useful would be using a laser scanner on certain miniatures, and then applying that information to the 3D printing process. It could just about print money with that concept. So El Reg, HOW ACCURATE AND DIFFICULT WOULD THAT BE?

  3. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    I know a bloke who needs a rocket-plane...

    Oh, wait...

  4. frank ly
    Thumb Up

    Thank you .....

    ... for an interesting and informative article. With an initial purchase cost of about $2000, it's not a bad price for serious hobbyist equipment and a very low price for any small company that could use such a capability.

    Christmas is coming....... :)

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Thank you .....

      And here is one with a bill of materials totalling $500, a 'Delta' robot, - imagine an upside down camera tripod, and the XYZ position on the head is controlled by the lengths of the legs. This is another open-source (make it, improve it, let us know) 3D printer, and the link will give you 3D models, schematics, BOM, and software:

      1. Arrrggghh-otron

        Re: Thank you ..... is the place to go if you think you have the nouse to build a 3d printer yourself... expect to stump up about £500.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Print a case?

    Yes, yes you should. For your raspberry pi.

    Now for a similar set-up for multi-layer PCBs, and printing phones would suddenly be much closer. Not sure if this'll end up in every home, but the corner shop would be good enough. In fact, document replication shops will be with us for a while, but not quite as much as once, perhaps. This something for them to foray into?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Print a case?

      Printing multi-layer PCBs. Brilliant. Perfect killer app.

      1. The Flying Dutchman

        Re: Printing multi-layer PCBs

        Better still, print the components too. Who needs a silicon foundry? ;-)

      2. easyk

        Re: PCB

        LPKF can do it but you need a lot of equipment.

  6. Anonymous Custard Silver badge


    As alternatives to Sketch-up, you can also consider both Wings3D and Blender.

    Both are free (open source) and quite easy to use. I use Wings3D for some game modding, and I know others who use Blender for the same. Either would do the job nicely for conjuring up models for printing.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Modelling

      Autodesk Inventor Fusion is available as a free (as in beer) download, in the form of a technology preview:

      This is representative of the new movement in CAD, the combination of Parametric (think drawing board, or Mechano) and freeform modelling (think clay). Previously, people would shunt models back and forth between packages such as Solidworks and Rhino.

      It expires for PC users on 1st April 2013, no date specified for OSX. It is the first of the big CAD players to produce a Mac version, an interesting development.

      1. TonkaToys

        Re: Modelling

        >It is the first of the big CAD players to produce a Mac version, an interesting development.

        Bentley MicroStation used to run on the Mac, but was withdrawn around '97 for some reason.

  7. MJI Silver badge

    There are other uses

    It is getting popular in the model railway hobby.

    Short runs of unusual wagons.

    Base coach bodies for sticking etched sides on, interiors done, underframe not bad, etched brass sides look good, in smaller scales.

    Parts for models.

  8. chrisf1

    Not just prototyping

    The economics for use in production would seem to be dependent on the cost and ability to recycle the raw material, the volume of production runs and complexity.

    Direct deposition/3D printing has the advantage of very little wastage. So if you are using high grade titanium and know that your wastage can be recycled but only as a downgraded material saving about 90% of the amount needed to mill an aerospace turbine housing from a solid block of aerospace grade titanium is very interesting.

    As long as you are within material and printer parameters some forms of complexity become almost a non issue - hence the use by jewelers and so on.

    The volume of the run is also important - shouldn't be too long before dental work is a large user of 3d printing - quick bespoke crowns and so on . No need for one - off casting.

    (anyone know if anyone can print bronze? should bring back that craft at a much lower cost)

    Given the range of material one might wish for I suspect bureau printing (eg shapeways has a material list ) has an interesting future.

    But still - me want. fab@home material syringe seems like fun but the reprap seems more sensible ....

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re Bronze,7458,7458

      This might help, a discussion on the open source 3D printing site RepRap about the very question you ask. They are talking about 'Bronze Clay', particles in bronze suspended in a binder. After modelling (usually by hand) the 'clay is placed in a kiln to give you fairly dense parts. A silver version is also available.

      Even these guys haven't found a way to print the material directly, you could print your self a mould. Your shapes would be limited by the usual mould design considerations, except you could consider your mould to be expendable.

      1. chrisf1

        Re: Re Bronze

        Was only a side thought - its a complex process at the moment. Sculpture -> mould -> wax -> mould -> bronze. Looks like it could be shortened somewhere but given the engineering could be a challenge - maybe printing the wax ...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Re Bronze

          "Sculpture -> mould -> wax -> mould -> bronze. Looks like it could be shortened somewhere but given the engineering could be a challenge - maybe printing the wax "

          Have been waiting for the technology to mature for the last decade. Although there are haptic tools to create the sculpture model in a PC - that doesn't help those of us who use hands-on clay. The real missing link is a 3D model capture using ordinary photographs.

          That still leaves a question mark over how to smooth the stepping ridges of a printed/sintered/hardened process without softening the fine detail.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not just prototyping

      "The volume of the run is also important - shouldn't be too long before dental work is a large user of 3d printing - quick bespoke crowns and so on . "

      My dentist will probably have one as soon as they are commercially viable. He likes new toys that improve his performance/efficiency.

      Several years ago he surprised me when preparing a tooth for a crown. Instead of taking a mould he took a 3D picture - and fed it into a 3D milling machine. We had a chat while the crown was being milled - then the finished piece clicked neatly into place. There were a selection of blanks in different enamel shades so that the crown matched the teeth.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Dental

        Dental is only one field Renishaw work in, having grown out of metrology in the aerospace industry. They are probably most famous for their ruby-tipped contact probes, for measuring turbine blades and the like, but are moving into surgical robots.

    3. chrisf1

      Re: Not just prototyping

      On prototyping (or er playing more honestly in my case) ...

      Should also give a hat tip to openscad - free interpreted simple programming tool for 2d-3d extrusion and constructive solid geometry (think basic set operations with geometric shapes). Easy and fun with only basic programming and cartesian math skills - most reg readers would surpass that I'd guess!

      Can get it to export STL files for printers and the like (although some post processing also by free tools).

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not just prototyping

      Dental work using ceramics and cutters to create crowns on the fly is well established. My dentist has been using this stuff for about five years now (from Siemens, can't remember the trademark). I have about 3 or 4 in my head. The last time from start of treatment (removing the old tooth) to leaving with a perfectly fitting crown was about 40 minutes... Also cheaper.

      1. kwhitefoot
        Thumb Up

        Re: Not just prototyping

        You beat me to it.

        In addition to having the manufacturing fully automated my dentist has a screen in front of the chair so you can see the 3D model and then watch the progress of the cutter as it creates the crown. Not only much faster and accurate than the old way of doing it but fascinating to watch.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Read Rule 34 by Charlie Stross to see where this might lead

    Charlie Stross uses 3D fabbers as a major plot element in his novel "Rule 34". It is disturbingly plausable.

  10. FlossyThePig
    Thumb Up

    Things to come

    if you consider the Makerbot to be the equivalent of an early 8 pin dot matrix printer think what the the equivalent of a current inkjet printer will do. The current range from Objet are interesting but the price is way beyond my budget.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Things to come

      And in other news, Stratasys (3D printers) and HP are parting company, without the collaboration bringing any dramatic reduction on the price of the machines. My old school's first laser printer, an Apple, cost them £5000... I was hoping HP might get the unit cost down to that sort of price.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    3D photographs

    What's the latest progress on producing 3D computer models from a series of digital pictures of an object? There was something from Cambridge - that was supposed to work with a set of photographs which did not have to be tightly controlled perspectives.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: 3D photographs

      I had a play with the demo, but didn't have need enough to get to grips with it. You need to print out some sheets with which to calibrate your camera, since it need to correct for lens distortion. Modelling humans (or any moving subject) works better if you use several calibrated cameras at the same instant. A few low-end Canon compacts would probably do the trick, since there is a low-cost hardware hack that allows shutter release through their USB ports.

      An alternative if you want a 3D scan of your head are those people who set up stalls in shopping centres offering a 3D model of your head made by forming bubbles in a cube of glass-like resin. The laser scanner they use outputs *.XYZ files, literally a CSV file defining 3 co-ordinates for each point in 3D space - ask nicely and carry a USB stick. The easiest tool I've found for creating a surface from this 'point cloud' is the 'drape' command in Rhino (trial version allows 20 saves).

      Otherwise, full power to the Kinect hackers. The Reg has a real stuffed vulture. The Reg can borrow a Kinect I'm sure. Maybe the Reg can attempt to make a 3D scan of their bird of choice and publish an account of their efforts?

  12. tony2heads

    Gun and model of Zuckerberg's head

    Obvious combination to start off with.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Gun and model of Zuckerberg's head

      Print Zuck's head in wax, and recreate the ending of Raiders of the Lost Ark with a heat gun....

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Gun and model of Zuckerberg's head

        Wouldn't that be terrorism?

  13. conel

    Even home 2d printing isn't all that great

    3d printing used to be known mainly as "rapid prototyping", it's now being used ever more for "rapid manufacturing" and this makes a lot of sense for low volume products.

    Various parts of the media, from geek websites to the FT, have been putting forward the notion that 3d printing will revolutionise manufacturing by putting a 3d printer in everyone's home and allowing for decentralised manufacturing. I don't see how this is even remotely plausible.

    I always think of home inkject/ laser printers when the notion is put forward. Would anyone seriously consider printing and binding a book at home to be preferable to ordering it online and having it delivered the next day. Consider the cost, time, reliability and hassle. Even for a custom book you would still be better off going with something like (think about the difference in quality, TCO and cost of you own time). And this is with technology which is fundamentally a lot simpler to 3d printing and has had decades to mature and become dirt cheap.

    I can imagine industrial scale 3d printers, which would be the equivalent of the printing machinery used by the likes of blurb, being used more widely for spare parts and such but the notion of it being done at home seems fanciful to me.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Even home 2d printing isn't all that great

      " Would anyone seriously consider printing and binding a book at home to be preferable to ordering it online and having it delivered the next day."

      Bought a "print on demand" book. The out of copyright material was already online as a very slow scrolling PDF. The content was almost entirely black and white photographs which the "print on demand" rendered as predominantly black splotches lacking any detail.

    2. Paul Shirley

      Re: scale matters

      Would anyone seriously consider ordering 1,2 or 3 pages online and having them delivered the next day to be preferable to printing them at home?

  14. Robert Grant Silver badge

    Print a 3d printer, half the size?

    Come ON! Where are the suggestions of, "If we just get a machine to make itself half size, nanotechnology will be a reality!"

    I miss the days of Tomorrow's World crazy technoutopianism.

    1. pixl97

      Re: Print a 3d printer, half the size?

      That's before everyone seemed to realize that that nanotechnology doesn't follow standard forces and delves in to the exceedingly odd world of quantum mechanics. The technoutopianists ignorance made them think we were much closer to mass produced technology at the atomic level. That said, we have learned a great deal about making stuff smaller, and due to that we have the dense storage and processing capacities in our current products.

      TL:DR, making stuff smaller is hard.

  15. Dave 126 Silver badge

    I'm with you, Conel... RP was my dissertation subject more than ten years ago, and I still can't think of a convincing end-use that justifies the hype it has attracted in the last few years (with no real advance in technology).

    Objects are usually better if mass produced (the tolerances of injection-moulded parts are incredible) and if you want to customise an object for a person (a hearing-aid, for example) taking a direct cast of the body part is usually the better option.

    Obviously the hobbyist / designer part of me is excited by this stuff, and I can identify a few niche applications for the average household (see tumble-drier door latch, above) but nothing that would really justify everybody owning one. I'm hoping to be proved wrong, though!

    Something to keep an eye on is the printing of body parts or very small items... but again, these are not consumer applications!

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Do I get to choose the body part?

      I think they would make excellent Christmas gifts.

      Yep, that's my coat, the one with the GPS tracker sewn into the lining.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Invented in the UK

      "Something to keep an eye on is the printing of body parts <...>"

      Done and dusted, with the UK well ahead of the curve for this particular application.


  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I miss the days of Tomorrow's World crazy technoutopianism.

    I miss Phillipa Forrester...

    1. Richard 81

      Re: I miss the days of Tomorrow's World crazy technoutopianism.

      You and me both.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I miss the days of Tomorrow's World crazy technoutopianism.

        <sigh> And me.

  17. Troy Peterson

    The Replicator is not bad... but there are better 3d printers

    I love my Ultimaker. In the year and a half that I've had it I've printed hundreds of novelty items... and a couple of useful ones. I have also repaired digital cameras, high-chairs, and TV remotes for friends. My desk here at work is covered with an army of yoda busts..... Including a glow-in-the-dark yoda... the force is truly with that one.

    I'd go with an Ultimaker ( over the MakerBot Replicator any day... Even the newly released Replicator 2 will not match the quality I get from my Ultimaker. I've printed at as low as 40 microns resolution... It's still the best amatuer grade 3d printer out there. It will easily out-perform the much more expensive comercial grade printers with the draw-backs simply being it's less sturdy construction and more maintenance / care / calibration being required.

    Also, the ReplicatorG software is pretty limited... Most people these days use Cura, Slic3r or the commercial NetFabb... and there are a few others.

  18. Richard 81

    Honest question:

    I'm too young to remember to the really early days of document printing. Of course I remember dot matrix printers, but that was still in the late 80s - early 90s. So, how does this compare to those early days? Does the assertion that these early 3D printers are like the first document printers really stand up?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's an analogy, dear.

      If you really want you can still buy dot matrix printers, amazingly. Because they cause physical impact you can run carbon copy stacks of flimsies through it, which is still useful for some things, sometimes required by law. Mind that laser printers have been available for a while and at 300dpi or not that much later, 600dpi they're not that far away from what you can buy today, usually 1200dpi. Some are nigh-on indestructible and will continue to work for as long as you can find toners for them, that produce more prints than newer models toner to boot.

      A better analogy might be one involving inkjets, early and later ones. The principle is much closer to what these things do, to boot. Wouldn't want them to go down the same garden path though. While dpi ratings went way up and the things acquired colour printing and such, the ink likewise went way up in price for no better reason than that the kit sells for close or less than cost and so you get gouged on the supplies.

      On the other hand, while the printers got fancier and more affordable (as long as you ignore the ink and the fancy paper), they still print mostly juvenile, photoshopped "fun" pictures adorned with comic sans, or print out emails from mom with the logo of their free email provider now nicely done in colour up top, instead of more earth-swaying fare.

      So it's but an analogy and analysing it is easily overdone. What would you do with a 3d printer?

  19. Efros


    Want one...!

  20. RonPaulFan

    I have a Makerbot - I don't think you are configured correctly just yet.

    So I have a first generation Makerbot Cupcake (batch 15) which took me about a year and a half to get printing decently enough to be proud of.

    I run my nozzle at 220 and my heated build platform at 120.

    I'm not sure why you are printing that very block-like object with a raft. You shouldn't need a raft with that print. The only time I print with a raft is if I'm printing balls, or objects (such as cars) where the points of contact are few and far between.

    I don't have the replicator, but I believe that unit comes with 'endstops'. Do you have your endstops setup? If so, you shouldn't need to 'home' your bot before printing and thus should not need to stick a piece of paper under the nozzle to check the height.

    I don't think you are quite built correctly yet. You need to head over to the Makerbot forum and ask JetGuy about your warping issues. You shouldn't be warping and if you are you are probably printing too hot.

    I encased my bot with acrylic plastic from Lowes which REALLY helped out with my printing.

    Here is one of my latest prints. It's the Mars Curiosity rover. Check it out and let me know what you think.

  21. RonPaulFan

    Oh, and don't take the whole 'applying the kapton tape without adding bubbles' too seriously. I end up replacing my kapton after about 20 prints or so due to the fact that I accidentally cut it all up when attempting to remove some of the prints from the board. After a while, trying to apply that kapton without bubbles becomes a pain in the butt.

    Now, I just cut two strips and lay them down as best I can. The bubbles in the tape seem to effect the prints little.

  22. RonPaulFan

    One more thing OP

    Oh and one more thing. For me and my bot, attempting to print as low as you have placed your nozzle messes my prints up. When I have my nozzle that close to the build platform, my first layers are smooshed against the platform and sometimes even the nozzle itself drags against the kapton tape and puts divots in it.

    I print somewhere in the neighborhood of .5mm above the platform which would be probably 10-15 pieces of paper. To be honest, I just kind of eye-ball it.

    But for me, printing as low as you have your nozzle doesn't work. Granted, I'm on those crappy threaded rods, but still...

  23. Kernel

    Re: Dave 126

    "I'm with you, Conel... RP was my dissertation subject more than ten years ago, and I still can't think of a convincing end-use that justifies the hype it has attracted in the last few years (with no real advance in technology).

    Objects are usually better if mass produced (the tolerances of injection-moulded parts are incredible) and if you want to customise an object for a person (a hearing-aid, for example) taking a direct cast of the body part is usually the better option."

    What I'm thinking of is a combination of the two - some have commented on how fast their dentist can produce a new crown - what I'm hoping for is a complete 'while you wait' set of new gnashers, rather than having to wait a week or so and make repeated visits.

  24. Alan Firminger

    What is the problem

    Throughout the article and discussion there is a sadness that online readymade designs are, apart from gun parts which I understand the generally pacifist Reg members will not want, there is nothing of interest.

    Three dimensional CAD has been around for thirty years, so it is well developed for easy use. What is the problem with producing a beautiful Vulture from head to tail fully formed with claws, feathers and bald head.

    Can we hope for a second article describing achievement with an ambitious design ?

    1. Simon Rockman

      Re: What is the problem

      There might be a lot of 3D models around, but what is generally designed for use in things like games is often unsuitable for printing where structural rigidity is a problem.

      I do however have some much more upbeat things planned.


      1. Alan Firminger

        Thanks Simon. I will watch out for a report on this crucial part of the process.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What good are gun parts?

      Quite a few reg readers, as in most by far, live in places where guns are very restricted, and as such a collection of parts missing the vital bits isn't merely useless, it's useless and bothersome

      Useless because for a working gun you need at least a barrel, and you can't really make one of those out of plastic. Even in leftpondia it's more a political statement than anything else, yet anyway. It works as a political statement there because the lower receiver "is" the gun, as far as relevant law there is concerned. All the rest down to barrels is more or less unrestricted. Doesn't work quite that way just about anywhere else.

      And it gets worse. Over here, if you're accosted by pc plod, and you have anything vaguely suspicious on your person --anything suspicious-ish, like a large wad of cash for example, will do-- they will *also* search your home. Anything they find there is fair game. They find gun parts, hey, they'll insist you must have the rest too, for why else do you have thispart? Then they *will* arrest and interrogate you, at their leisure. And issue a press release they've managed to stop a would-be terrorist in his tracks. So why keep a useless curiosity around?

      It doesn't have much to do with pacifism, instead quite a lot with relevant law and plod practice.

  25. JBFromOZ

    Don't forget the scalability in the other direction,

    the ol' recycled milk carton regatta meets 3D printing...

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    2000? A bargain!

    Someone on the radio noted that a litre of inkjet ink comes in at over 5000 AUD.

    I'm just gonna print all my letters in plastic.

  27. Nigel 11


    It strikes me that one of the most interesting materials to print 3D things in, is wax. Can these printers do wax?

    If you are wondering why: look up lost was casting. You surround the was with clay, heat it to boil and burn out the wax and to fire the clay, and finally cast metal into it. To start with it could revolutionize the jewellery trade. You could go from a 3D cad design to a finished item cast in silver or gold in a day. And computers can calculate (and 3D-print? ) fractal designs so easily. Just try carving a fractal from a block of wax by hand!

    1. Simon Rockman

      Re: Wax

      Nigel, one of the things I made was a Reg candle. I used Sugru to make a mould around the plastic model and made a candle from that.

  28. Esskay
    Thumb Up

    Could pay for itself...

    Not sure if there are any mini owners on here, but a few small pieces of early (60's) cars contained a few bakelite interior trim pieces - the sort of things that are well known to break and become unobtanium in a short amount of time.

    For instance, original Mk1 steering column shrouds sell for over 100 pounds in immaculate condition, reproductions today are still over 40 pounds - 3D printing could easily mean that every car club could produce their "own" reproduction parts, at a fraction of the cost, and still turn a profit. Even taking in to account the teething problems of early machines, they're still well worth the money, even at the "hobby" level, and that can only be a good thing for the technology...

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