Brian Proffitt and Tim Worstall on Open Source 3D Printing

3D printing (can we all agree on whether or not to hyphenate and/or capitalize the “d”) is a hot topic for speculation in certain circles. Lets look at some now…

Read the original article by Brian Proffitt over at ReadWriteWeb.com or just the highlights here.

The potential of 3D printing to transform the way we get things – the market is predicted to hit $3.1 billion in the next four years – gets a lot of press. But not much of that attention has focused on the unique role of open source hardware in enabling 3D printing to realize its promise.

Open source hardware is a component or device that has been licensed to allow anyone to examine, duplicate and modify the hardware as they wish…Open source hardware doesn’t get much attention outside of geek circles, but it is starting to have a real-world impact.

Arduino’s hardware is completely open sourced (under Creative Commons), with design files and specs available, as well as control software (under the GPL) and documentation (also under Creative Commons). The only thing non-free about Arduino is the trademarked name – and that’s just to keep standards in place.

Making it easier, faster and cheaper to produce physical objects could fundamentally shift the manufacturing paradigm. As 3D printing, powered by Arduino and other open source technologies, becomes more prevalent, economies of scale become much less of a problem.

One little blue-and-white microcontroller may not be the fulcrum to move the world, but open source hardware is definitely making the lever longer and easier to push.

Read the original article by Tim Worstall over at Forbes. Or not. Here are some excerpts for your brain.

Is 3-D printing going to change our world in the decades to come? Sure it is, it’s going to, in fact it already is, entirely change the economics of low volume manufacturing. That, in turn, changes the economics of high volume manufacturing and so we’ll end up with an entirely different product mix, what gets made where and how.

… it’s easy enough to see a time in which one has such a [3D] printer just as much as one has a paper printer. Need something, call up the part design over the web, pay a buck or two perhaps (and no doubt there will be open sourcers as well) and print out whatever it is that you wanted.

However, I’m continually seeing the old Luddite point beng made. If we don’t need factories full of workers to do things then won’t everyone be poor as they’ve got no jobs?…I continually pound my head onto the desk when I see this argument.

If we’re getting as many physical goods from our 3-D printers as we desire then there’s no shortage of non-physical goods, services if you like, that that same displaced labour can now go and provide…But the second, and clinching, argument is about cost. We will obviously only use our 3-D printers to create everything if they are cheaper than the more traditional manufacturing methods…let us go to the extreme and assume that they are cheaper: so much so that manufacturing really does disappear. What does that do to wages? Yup, a fall in the costs of things is equal to, is by definition the equivalent of, a rise in real wages. So if 3-D printers do take off it can only be because, by definition, they make us all richer.

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