Mountains of hype and hyperbole have been heaped by the media on 3D printers lately. Of course, we expect that type of behavior from the media, because it draws our attention, which increases sales or ratings, which results in more money. (For them, not us.) Perhaps in this case it’s warranted, because 3D printers appear poised to be the Next Big Thing. At least, that’s what the media is telling us.
First, let’s understand and agree that “3D printer” is a horrible name for these devices. It’s not accurate, and is in fact actively misleading. The name probably came from the Society for the Creation of Ridiculous Names (SCORN), which provided such celebrity baby names as Pilot Inspektor , Kal-El, and Moon Unit. The 3D printer is not a printer at all. It doesn’t make copies of letters, family trees, or your grocery list. Rather, it’s a manufacturing device that makes objects from a computer model by layering material successively. Traditional manufacturing machines remove material from a blank.