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In 3D printing, who will own the OS layer?

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I've heard AutoDesk has a good position here for 3D printing, but I'm sure there's a lot of context I'm missing.

I agree with Birch that TechCrunch is wrong in dismissing 3D printing. It's going to follow the same arc as many revolutionary technologies have, but it's not going to catch on overnight.

I think you're probably right that AutoDesk is in a good position to ride the first big wave of adoption, but that will limit its use to technical drafters and mechanical engineers and the like.

Eventually the printers will be able to carve wood, stone, and even metal rather than just plastics. That, coupled with improvements in 3D scanning technology will lead to massive adoption by regular people looking to do everything from start a custom toymaking business to auto-repair shops who would rather print their own carburetor for that 1985 Toyota Corolla rather than hunt around for the part.

Once the tech has been standardized enough to have a spec for the data format used to feed into the printers (whether it be AutoDesk, AutoCAD, or some similar open source format) people will be sharing them with each other and developing communities around sharing open source designs. Then the technical skills won't be necessary, and you'll see a lot of hobbyists who only know how to find, combine, and maybe tweak existing designs to make new ones.

I like the idea around "scanning" -- know any companies that would be strong in that?

As for the TC comment, yeah -- Jon, like me, is a long-time guest contributor, and I think he got bashed in the comments on this one, but generally, he's a strong writer/thinker.

This paragraph...

The reality of 3D printing is that it is not for everyone right now. In fact, only the most hardcore techie could really get into it and fork over the $1000 for the setup. Very few people can fathom why one would want a 3D printing in his or her home. But people said the same thing when the first dot matrix printers came on the market. They were clunky and slow and expensive and broke down all the time. Plus, who would want to print stuff at home anyway other than computer nerds? Now practically every home has a color printer capable of producing high-quality photos, greeting cards, spreadsheets, novels, and the kid’s homework.

...makes me believe that Apple is watching and waiting for this market to be ready for consumers.

Disney has also been doing R&D.

Interesting 3-D scanner:

Wikipedia is pretty thorough:

Makerbot's 3-D scanning category:

The Atlantic has a great article on why Apple should start making a 3-D printer now:

Great paragraph:

"3D Printing is unlikely to prove as satisfying to manual labor evangelists as an afternoon spent with a monkey wrench. But by bringing more and more people into the innovation process, 3D printers could usher in a new generation of builders and designers and tinkerers, just as Legos and erector sets turned previous generations into amateur engineers and architects."

This makes me wonder if LEGO is working on anything in this area.

If Steve Jobs was right that the computer is a bicycle for the mind, the 3D printer may just be its factory.

I'm not an expert in embedded software or 3D printing, but to me it seems that there is a strong argument to make it run on Raspberry Pi. It's simple, cheap (top-of-the-line Model B is $35), and the company that makes the boards plans to add support for Python soon -- perhaps the ultimate DIY programming language. Plus, it's expressly designed for the purpose of facilitating the learning of CS and *nix concepts. And Linux hackers are a great community to get started with something as cutting edge and potentially subversive as 3D printing.

Raspberry Pi Board

It seems to be the Raspberry Pi boards would have plenty of power to run the printer -- it's not like anyone wants use the hardware for hosting big websites. They can run Quake III and has an ethernet port. To me it seems like the perfect way to add some smarts to these printers.

Of course it all depends on which company's version of the technology gets big, first. I'm sure Microsoft would love to have a community of 3D printer hobbyists running Windows. It seems Windows has been going more embedded recently -- some of the parking meters in Redwood City run Windows.

A YC company called Dreamforge is looking for a "full-stack engineer" to join the team. They self-identify as being about consumer 3D printing and are using nodejs, C++, RoR , though I can't think of a good reason they should need both node and RoR. C++ makes sense for the embedded aspect I guess.

They claim to be about democratization, so it seems likely they're doing some kind of *nix OS for the device (if it indeed runs an OS -- it could well just have a USB port and a client app).

Hacker News job post:

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