A consumer’s view: What 3D printing is like when you’ve never done it before

As an inexperienced consumer, I’ve learned that 3D printing is harder than it looks. I thought it would be as easy as hitting print. Then, voila a miniature robot! A pencil holder! A pair of stunner shades! A Bulbasaur planter!

3D printing has the potential to change everything in our world: the Army is considering using it as an easy way to replace parts during war, and NASA even just sent a printer to space. So when I was given the chance to try printing an object for the first time, of course I wanted to try it.

Then I opened the lid on the 3D printer and saw a wet tangled mess of lasered plastic. Oh. 3D printing, it turns out, is not the perfect life-changing tool I had imagined.

While my colleague Signe Brewster can tell the difference between objects that came off a really great 3D printer and those produced by a mediocre one, I looked down at a lump of a plastic that was supposed to be a crown and a snitch (from Harry Potter) and wondered why people are so enchanted by this device. My desk is a slowly growing menagerie of imperfect prints: a robot in several pieces that don’t snap together, keychains that didn’t finish printing, two pen holders whose edges are curled up and a ball stuck on a platform of black plastic supports. … (Read more)

Source: Gigaom.com