LA Times Writer’s Take on 3-D Printing

As a Los Angeles Times subscriber, I generally appreciate their coverage of technology. I may not always agree with the accuracy or their assessments, but I appreciate their effort to make technological topics accessible for non-techies. A few months ago they ran an article on 3D printing. The writer borrowed a MakerBot Replicator for six weeks and wrote about their experience.

LA Times 3D Printer
Follow the link for the full article.

Most technology articles tend to be printed as part of the Business section. This article ran in the Home & Garden section because the writer was evaluating a 3D printer in the role of a home appliance. As soon as I realized this, I said to myself “oh no” and my expectation for the article went downhill.

Over the course of this six-week experiment, the author downloaded progressively more complex and ambitious designs off Thingiverse and printed them. The author then wrote about the experience of printing and the (lack of) usefulness of the results. The author was less than impressed by the current state of the art in 3D printing. One sentence from the conclusion: “I merely toyed with the machine for its novelty without finding a conclusive use for it.”

Reading through this, the voice inside my head was screaming: “You’re doing it wrong!” The author never explored printing their own creation. Something new and novel just for themselves. This is, in my view, the most important point of 3D printing and this article’s missed it entirely.

Here’s an analogy with a 2D paper printer commonplace in homes and offices: A writer borrows a laser printer for a few weeks, goes on the internet to download progressively longer PDFs of books written by other people. The writer never explores the freedom of printing books of their own writing. After printing a few books written by others, the author concludes there’s no reason to have a printer at home when it’s cheaper and faster to just buy already-printed books.

I can understand how this article went off on the wrong track due to the flawed premise, but I still disagree with it.

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