Many industry participants and commentators tout the promise of consumer 3D printing but caution not to “buy-in” to the hype about the technology unshackling the “democratization of production” and putting a desktop factory in every home any time soon. They say the technology and materials aren’t yet ready for mass consumerization, and that’s true. In fact, it could be many years before they are efficient enough to come anywhere close to adoption rates of 2D printers.

As Jon Evans declared in his column for TechCrunch, 3D printing is not just 2D printing with another dimension added on. Certainly, “the names are similar, but their uses are not analogous,” he writes. “We may reasonably conclude that 3D printing will not recapitulate the history of 2D printing, and as soon as you make an argument along those lines you lose all credibility and look like an idiot.” (Did Mr. Evans just call the President of the United States an idiot?)

Evans thinks 3D printing will revolutionize manufacturing as we know it, but not at the home. Instead, he asserts that we will see two kinds of communal 3D printer shops:

  1. In high-infrastructure (developed) areas, large online providers such as Amazon will get into the mix. Users will pick their 3D design from a massive online menu, send Amazon the size information and a few photos from some application, tweak the 3D preview until they’re happy and have it printed out in some enormous warehouse full of high-end high-speed 3D printers where the product will be shipped, possibly the same day.
  2. In low-infrastructure (developing) areas, or if the user is a casual hobbyist, he or she will head down to the nearest local printing facility that will customize the order, render it in the cloud, print it out and tweak and repeat until it’s done.