3D printing is nothing special

People who read this blog and know me are aware of my obsession with 3D printing – and the fact that I think it will be bigger than the internet. Recently I had an experience with my 3D printer which was most enlightening. Before I share the story let me share a terrific definition of technology:

TechnologySomething that was invented after you were born.

So I was playing with my 3D printer in my home office when my 3 year old daughter entered the room. I asked her if she wanted me to print her something. Maybe a toy or some jewelry. She replied simple ‘Ok daddy’ and seemed pretty excited about it. Who wouldn’t be, it’s a 3D printer for crying out loud. So we picked one of the bracelets from the picture below, and sent the file to the printer. A pressed the print button and it started printing. I was pretty pumped. 3D printing my little girl some personal jewelry, immediately in my home office. I quickly said “Look, Look, it’s printing it.” To which she replied in a nonchalant manner. “Ok, thanks daddy”

Sure she was excited about the jewelry, but not the process. The process was irrelevant to her, she just wanted the thing.

3D printed bracelet

When the print job was done, I called her back in and said “Look, here it is, I printed it for you!!!”. To which her reply was much like the previous one regarding the process. She said “Thanks daddy” and then put it on her wrist and skipped away to get on with her 3 year old life.

3D printing to her is as ‘normal’ as cars, TV, airplanes, computers and microwave ovens. How can it not be, it was invented before she was born. It’s just another of the thousands of normal everyday thing she is seeing for the time. Nothing more or less special that the other technology in our lives.

But the really significant element is that by the time she is 13 years of age, yourself and every person we know will have a 3D printer. We’ll all be printing things in our homes on a daily basis. And if you think that isn’t possible, let me remind you that every social media channel you currently use today didn’t exist 10 years ago, and we already know how much that changed our social and economic landscape.

3D printing is NOW – get on it and don’t regret you let this entrepreneurial opportunity slip you by.


21 thoughts on “3D printing is nothing special

  1. I used to give my boys at that age a piece of masking table about a foot long. They’d keep coming back all day and the wonder was always the same. Stippy Tape Daddy!

    Sam, @samotage

  2. Yep – my Daughter is totally obsessed with sticky tape – and when anything breaks in our house no matter how big… her suggested solution is always the same:

    “fix daddy, sticky tape, sticky tape”

  3. “3D printing is NOW – get on it and don’t regret you let this entrepreneurial opportunity slip you by.” – I completely agree, except I also think bitcoin is now, and it’s hard to be well-informed on two disruptive new technologies at the same time.

  4. Do you believe 3D printing [in 10 years] will still be a craft/toy tool [at least in the home setting] or do you think we will be fabricating more functional objects? What do you think these functional objects could be?

  5. My girls are a bit older, so they were really fascinated with the process. Up to a point. As the process is fairly lengthy, I noticed after they’d satisfied themselves that they knew how it worked, they disappeared off, back to their iPads etc until it was finished. My youngest has been more interested (12) and she routinely grabs models off Thingiverse for me to print as gifts for her friends. I always print them in glow-in-the-dark ABS because if I don’t, I have to cop a “disappointed” look 🙂

  6. Really? My 3 y/o daughter gets pretty excited about making anything: paper masks, jam, christmas decorations, etc. I think the reason she wasn’t engaged by the process wasn’t because it was invented before she was born, but because she didn’t have to do anything. Try making a bracelet by braiding up some pieces of wool and see if she’s more fascinated.

  7. Yes – I really think we’ll be printing functional objects….

    Already multi material printers are emerging…. Next is smart phone apps which film what needs to be printed and turns it into an STL file…. It is coming quicker than anyone can imagine.

  8. Forget 10 years:



    Also you don’t necessarily need the objects themselves to be functional. How many devices have you had to throw away because some little piece of shit plastic connector broke off and now the whole thing is useless? 3d printing will allow repairs to goods to be done much more cheaply and change the mass manufacturing dynamic with potential to provide monetary incentives for companies to build longer laster products with licensed, printable components that can provide ongoing revenue and reducing overall waste.

  9. In the same way that kids go to the window and make an iPad expand screen gesture to bring the bird on the tree outside closer in – however having said that – many people are not yet even aware the technology exists – and I think the implications will be huge – what will 3D printed meat do for farmers for example? Food security? Huge potential and really rejigging the world as we know it

  10. 4 years ago I had the same epiphany but with my two year old and my laser cutter. She sat at the computer attached to the machine and said, ‘Look daddy, I’m laser cutting. She’s now six and only mildly interested in my laser cutter, two 3d printers and the process. She and her sister too, are far more interested in the result than the process, but they do occasionally pause to contemplate what I do. I suppose that they won’t have the interest until they have the skills/ability to directly affect the resulting product that they will truly be engaged by the process. This is much the same for many people. Only some of us have the motivation to follow through on how to do something, rather than being the passive observer of a manufacturing process in operation. Additive manufacturing is a fundamental shift in thinking about how we make things, but it is still a process that people may or may not feel the need to comprehend. For better or worse, I care little for accounting processes avoid it all costs, but ask me to spend a month buidling a device that can construct extraordinary geometries and I’m right there.

  11. Hey Steve,

    Nice post.

    I’m thinking of purchasing a 3D printer for play. What do you have? Any suggestions for the relatively 3D illiterate consumer?

  12. The Cube is a good printer and appears to work nice and consistently but how are the consumable costs? Is it possible to refill one of the Cube filament drums or do you have to buy a new one? I am under the impression it’s the latter, which brings the old “razors and razorblades” play into the picture.

  13. We’ve just started using 3D printing on the e-Go light aircraft (www.e-Go.me) and it’s worked very well. I was tempted to buy a machine, but bureau services are now so cheap and quick, and the technology’s moving so fast that I recommend the bureau route whilst you try the wide variety of techniques and materials.

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