The Worst of 3D Printing Hype

3D printing is a groundbreaking technology with great potential to change the world, however, the technology has been overhyped lately, so much so that some experts anticipate consumers will be largely disappointed with the technology's reality.

The worst of 3D printing hype
The worst of 3D printing hype

Undoubtedly, 3D printing is a groundbreaking technology with the potential to change the world.  However, the technology has been over-hyped lately, so much so that some experts anticipate consumers will be largely disappointed with the technology’s reality. Amid reports of some of the most important 3D printing projects, some projects over-state their potential, are too expensive to ever be practical, or are just plain useless.

3D-printed record
3D-printed record

Last year, Amanda Ghassaei, assistant tech editor at Instructables, designed and created the world’s first functional record, which played songs by Nirvana, Daft Punk, and The Pixies on a traditional record player. The feat was impressive, and definitely a nod to the potential of 3D-printing technology, but the audio was terrible, as Ghassaei admitted. Those looking to print vinyl records at home shouldn’t get their hopes up, either – the project was completed with a very expensive, high-end 3D printer and involved a complicated design process.

Flying 3D printer
Credit: YouTube.com
Flying 3D printer

For whatever reason, a group of makers from Deezmaker and Velocity Pigeon set out to create a flying 3D printer. Perhaps the point was to draw attention to Deezmaker’s Bukobot desktop 3D printer. Regardless, the project showed that if anyone was interested in attaching a 3D printer to a remote-control octocopter, then it is possible.

3D print your face…in chocolate!

A project in Japan suggested printing miniature replicas of people’s faces made out of chocolate, apparently as a gift for Valentine’s Day. It could be a good way to make sure people know who gave them chocolates.

Miniature replicas of yourself
Miniature replicas of yourself

Also in Japan, a photo-boot-like exhibit offered to 3D print a miniature replica of the people who enter the booth for a 3D scan. The dolls are produced in three sizes: 10cm, 15cm, and 20cm. But there is a catch – the prices range from $214 to $326 to $428.

Human fetus replica
Credit: Diginfo.TV
Human fetus replica

Using images from MRI and CT scans of pregnant women’s torsos, Japanese firm Fasotec and Hiroo Ladies Clinic has developed a way to 3D print a scale replica of a fetus. Some may say the plastic model isn’t any different than photos or video of an ultrasound procedure. However, the company is selling the replicas for $1,275, and will charge more to make them into keychains and cellphone dongles, according to a report from Diginfo.TV.

Actual transformer robot
Credit: YouTube.com
Actual transformer robot

Developers at Brave Robotics have made a small, functional robot that transforms from a remote-control car into a walking robot with a Wi-Fi-enabled camera and the ability to launch darts from its arms. The robot was apparently built with entirely 3D-printed parts, and took roughly a decade to make. But don’t let your kids hear about it – Brave Robotics is selling the toy for $25,000.

Brass knuckles
Brass knuckles

In a classic case of “just because you can make something doesn’t mean you should,” a group of eighth graders in California printed a set of brass knuckles just for kicks last year, Bloomberg Businessweek reported. To be more accurate, the hard-plastic version of the weapon used most prominently in gang fights can’t really be called “brass.” But given that traditional, real brass knuckles were pretty unnecessary to begin with, it’s fair to say that the 3D design file for the weapon is pretty unnecessary for a 14-year-old.

GE’s ‘3D-printed jet engine’
GE’s ‘3D-printed jet engine’

As my colleague Paul McNamara pointed out just a few weeks ago, General Electric’s declaration of a “3D-printed jet engine” was a little inaccurate, considering that it was actually just a 1.5-inch plastic model of a jet engine. Hyperbole aside, the model is a sign of things to come, as aviation is well-poised to reap the benefits of 3D printing as the technology matures.

‘3D-printed jumbo jet’
‘3D-printed jumbo jet’

Similarly, a TED Talk published recently proposes “a 3D-printed jumbo jet” in its title. The presentation, given by a designer at Airbus, focuses on potential material and structure of an airplane that may, theoretically, reduce the energy consumption of air travel at some point in the future. Of course, a 3D-printed jumbo jet likely won’t come to fruition for decades, if ever, but pitching a theory as a “3D-printed jumbo jet” is a great way to attract attention to it.