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Where The Real Money Will Be Made In The Field of 3D Printing

Updated on May 8, 2013

Forget All The Hype About 3D Printing And Think Cigarettes.

All the hype about 3-D printing being the next big technology with industrial shattering potential is all hype. Yes you might be able to manufacture a functioning machine gun out of plastic using an $800 laser plastic surface hardening 3D printer from a design that is free of charge on the internet as advertised but is that really cheaper or better than buying the real thing off the shelf? You may or may not be able to make all the parts or the bullets including the gun powder and lead so you might need a few other expensive 3D printers that handle other materials. That is just the favorite example for all the optimism about 3D printers being the next industrial revolution. Reality is a bit different than the hype taken to the extremes envisioned. First of all it will not wreck the transportation industry because every sort of material will have to be packed in to printer cartridges and distributed. If you wanted to make 3D copies of McDonald's Hamburgers at home with a single three d printer you would need . Frozen beef cartridges, hamburger bun bread cartridges, ketchup and pickle cartridges and even sesame seed and maybe more elements for the printer. So where would you get all of that? The store? printer cartridges online? You might have to get in your car and drive to a big box store carrying all the cartridges you need for your home gourmet French restaurant including butter and lobster. That is what is wrong with all the hype. It all really does not simplify the manufacturing process nor does it put third world country sweat shops out of business nor can it really compete with the machines that make many of our high tech day to day products in big factories that distribute the old fashioned way .

What makes the story about a 3D gun manufactured at home on a 3d printer so exciting is it is almost contraband but otherwise it is a silly idea. The cost of all the 3d printing machines one would need to really manufacture such a gun might surpass the cost of just buying a tested factory model. The economics of making small numbers of certain objects by 3d printing means substantial shipping costs cutting into any benefits for the cartridges necessary holding base manufacturing materials. It is possible at some future time natural gas lines to a home could be used to transform gas into a multitude of different plastics or fuels and that would be interesting because the gas in on tap like other utilities, including water and electricity.

All those negatives aside, there still is a use for a 3-D printing machine or even a somewhat less complicated home manufacturing machine. Think Cigarettes. Smokers can buy bulk tobacco at substantially less than packaged pre rolled cigarettes . The main reason is taxes charged by states and the federal government on pre rolled cigarette packs is high--designed to discourage smoking and to greedily fund government spending. It won't be long till Marlboro and Camel, Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds discover how easily bulk Marlboro and Camel Mixtures of tobacco will fit in relatively inexpensive brand name cartridges for 3d printers. Custom rolls of brand rolling papers can also be set in cartridge form or just as rolls that fit in to a printer. Kits containing those two kinds of cartridges and filters, branding ink and even pre printed boxes or unprinted boxes that can be printed cut and later folded could be included. If a confirmed smoker smokes 2 3 packs of cigarettes a week such a printer could quickly pay for itself in savings. For Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds they would soon discover they make as much money or more selling in bulk than they did with the over taxation on factory made packages and cartons. The manufactures make more money because they still sell their brand and just outsource the production of the rolled product to home 3D printers saving consumers part of the tax bill the manufactures always passed on. Hey even the surgeon general's warning on each pack could be identical to what is bought at a store . A 3d printer could even counterfeit the state tax stamps found on packs though that would be unnecessary because the cost of such a home 3D printer might only cost $22 when made in China. The manufacturers would be fools not to give away their brand cigarette printers because the cartridges will be where the money is made just as we know HP makes more money on printer cartridges than they do on the initial cost of many of their laser jet computer printers.

Cigarettes would just be the first place where a 3D printer would make sense. A similar machine that had cartridges filled with pure edible grain alcohol would allow people at home to buy an infinity of different spirits favoring cartridges. There are already soda stream machines on the market which are essentially the same thing but not for the spirits manufacture at home.

If you think cigarettes that probably where 3D printers will gain their first real foothold where it is not for designers and or for small replacement parts using certain base metals. Those types of uses would be found in shops and not in every home. Cigarettes puts such machines everywhere and anywhere and fast once people realize cigarettes cost a lot less and you get an almost infinite supply on demand unlike having to deal with packs and cartons where there are limitations and packages to unlock to get the product out as often as cigarettes are smoked.


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