Mandatory Reading for Folks Excited about 3D Printing Who’ve Never *Used* a 3D Printer

I touched on this briefly when I wrote about DefDist’s 3D-printed plastic pistol, but this piece is much more detailed and written by someone who actually knows something:
Why 3D Printing Is Overhyped (I Should Know, I Do It For a Living)

We are still firmly in the honeymoon period with 3D printing — we’re in awe of it and what it can do. But when you look at just the parts produced and not the way they were produced, printed parts are a long way behind in terms of quality, and when there often is no cost advantage, Captain Everyday will always go for the mass-produced one.

He makes an analogy between the 3D printer and the bread machines of the 80s and 90s that I think is quite apt, in terms of hype vs. utility. But the clearest analogy–the one built into the damned *name* of the device, yet still alludes lots of folks when they *talk* about 3D printing–is to the desktop printer.
When desktop printers and “desktop publishing” became ubiquitous, no one predicted a future where we’d all buy books and magazines on diskette, then print and bind them ourselves–not because ebooks were even a gleam in anyone’s eye yet, but because just a glimpse at any “desktop published” material made the comparison laughable. Printers are super handy, and desktop publishing basically maturity into its own unique, all-electronic medium, but they’re basically for *prototyping* literature, not mass-producing and distributing it. And someone still has to sink a lot of swear an time into actually creating something worth distributing and printing. 3D printing? Same-same.