3D printing is a budding technology—not too long ago it was the poster boy for technology on the media hype train. While 3D printing has certainly come a long way from corporate corridors and onto the desktops of budding DIY workshops across the world, it’s not exactly the technology that consumers thought they would be getting from 3D printers. This has resulted in consumer 3D printers not being as widespread as they should be and have prompted consumers to come to terms with the fact that 3d Printers aren’t entirely the “consumer friendly” and “create everything” gadget that they had been promised. It is partly due to the fact that the industry today, especially in the eye of everyday people,has a bit of a branding problem per se.
Think for a moment, when you hear the term 3D printing, what do you think of? Who is a 3D printer for? You may think of engineers, architects, prototyping, nerds, geeks, makers, hackers, etc. What about you? Is a 3D printer for you? We certainly think so! Keep reading as we clear up the most common misconceptions and myths of 3D printing as it relates to the consumer.
Myth 1: 3D Printers Are Just for the Experts
A common myth is that 3D printers are an extremely complex technology that only engineers and the most die-hard DIY fanatics can get into—that it’s for makers, hackers, and all around technology gurus.
While that may have been traditionally true, consumer 3D printers today have dramatically come down in cost (the M3D Micro is only $349!) and become easier to use as more and more companies are opting for a plug-and-play approach. With more affordable and accessible 3D printers on the market, it has become easier for those with the curiosity to create, and in turn, test out the technology without breaking the bank. The number one fix to dispelling the myth that 3D printers are for tech-obsessed “nerds and geeks” is to make a working printer that anyone can use. By lessening the barrier to entry through cost and ease-of-use, more people will be able to jump into the wonderful world of 3D printing and start bringing their creations to life!
Myth 2: The Industry Is Littered with Jargon
Like any industry, 3D printing is plagued with its own jargon that comes across as alien-speak to those not brought into the fold. Fused filament fabrication, filaments, extruders, print beds, nozzles, and the like, means nothing to the average consumer and only adds to the perceived mysticism of 3D printing as some obscure technology that’s wholly inaccessible to the uninitiated.
For instance, filament is the material that some printers use to print objects—except filament means nothing to the average person. At M3D, to cut down on industry jargon and help make the technology more consumer friendly, we opted instead for the term “3D Ink”. At the end of the day, 3D printers are
printers and printers use ink, so by referring to our own specialized filament as 3D Ink, we’re telling consumers that this is the material that our printers create with. We are therefore, using terms that are common in today’s vernacular to break down barriers and make 3D printing more accessible for everyone.
Myth 3: There Are No Practical Applications for Consumer 3D Printing
A common question and perhaps the most damaging to 3D printing branding in general, is that there is no practical application for 3D printing in the home. This, however, couldn’t be further from the truth!While 3D printing has a clear application for industrial and commercial use, such as product prototyping and medical applications, the use still needs to be demonstrated to everyday customers.
While a user will get the most out of a 3D printer by designing their own files to print, which in turn makes 3D printing more customizable, not everyone has the design background in order to do so! As Such, there are software offerings out there today that streamline the process into a drag-and-drop approach such as in programs like Tinkercad. If customers are able to create their own files through traditional design software, users will be able to create their own jewelry, replacement parts for home appliances (i.e. printing a new handle for a broken dishwasher or a washing machine), or even create custom parts for individualized projects such as piecing together an intricate cosplay outfit. The uses don't stop there- from Thingiverse to MyMiniFactory- there’s a huge library of free models to download camera rigs, cutlery holders, valve caps for bikes, musical instruments, phone cases, wall mounts, phone amplifiers and more—the possibilities are endless! Furthermore, the availability and open-source nature of these files opens up a floodgate of everyday applications for 3D printers. Whether you’re printing for fun, for work, or for educational purposes, you should be able to find something amazing, wonderful, or even useful to create with your 3D printer. 3D printing is now easier than ever to jump into. What are you waiting for?