4th of July Fun: Random Questions of Midwest Country Folks on 3D Printing Technology

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Here we are on the 238th birthday of the United States.  Hundreds of millions of people around the country are celebrating in a variety of ways.  Me, I traveled 1500 miles north to Wisconsin, where I am spending time with family.  Farming makes up the majority of the employment in this area, with tractor manufacturing and repair coming in a close second.  I thought it would be 4th-1interesting to see how many of the people up here had an understanding of 3D printing.  Since I had some free time in between yesterday’s canoeing and watching the fireworks tonight, I decided to talk to some of the locals and see what they thought about this emerging technology, we call 3D printing.  These interviews were very informal. I didn’t even get any of their last names, and with me I carried a 3D printed bottle opener, and a pair of 3D printed sunglasses.  I thought it was incredibly interesting to get a perspective of people well removed from the industry, people who mostly had no idea what 3D printing was, at least  from what I had thought.

The first person I met was named Dan.  He was approximately 40 years old and worked on the family farm.

My first question was, “Do you know what 3D printing is?” d0004270
Dan confidently responded, “Yes Sir, Holograms!”
Me: “No I mean actually printing real 3D objects, like a bottle opener, or engine component.”
Dan:  “Huh?  That’s not possible, maybe if fifty years!”
Me: “Check this out,” as I pulled out the bottle opener and opened the beer he just purchased from the beer tent.
Dan: “What?!?! That wasn’t printed!”
Me: “Yep, this was printed on my printer at home, which cost me about $1000. The material cost me maybe $0.50.  They have machines capable of printing out objects in titanium as well.  What do you think about that?”
Dan:  “Stop sh*tting me.” How is this possible?  Where do I get a 3D machine?”

I then went on to explain in detail how 3D printers work, gave him the url for 3DPrint.com, and told him to check it out and email me if he had any questions.

The next person I came across, and struck up a conversation with was a 27 year old man named Steve.  Steve was a mechanic, working primarily on broken farm equipment.  He’d been in this line of work since he was 15, and seemed to be tremendously knowledgable about manufacturing as well as farming.  Here is an excerpt of our conversation.

Me: “Do you guys use 3D printing at all in your field?”
Steve:  “No, I have heard about it though…  I don’t think its something we could use, it’s more of a hobby type technology, isn’t it?”
Me:  “Well, the next spacecraft to land on Mars will likely have a 3D printed combustion chamber on each of its thrusters”
Steve: “What?  Is it plastic?”
Me: “Nope its a superalloy made with a metal material called Inconel”
Steve:  “Metal?  How the heck do you print with metal?  That’s not possible, prove it!”
Me: Waiting 3-4 minutes to get enough of a signal on my smartphone to load the proof, so that I could show him an article , “Here you go!”
Steve: “Well I’ll be darned, that’s incredible!”

Similar to the 3D printed shades I carried with me.

Similar to the 3D printed shades I carried with me. (image credit: ProtoParadigm)

The last interesting conversation I had was with a 15 year old girl named Star. I immediately pulled out the 3D printed shades and asked her how she thought it was made.  The conversation surprising went as follows:

Me: “Hey, do you know how this bottle opener was made?”
Star: As she examined it thoroughly, “Wait, was this 3D printed?”
Me: “Yep! How did you know,” I asked with a surprised look on my face.
Star: “Because we have one in school, which I used for a project last year. You can tell by the lines where the printer printed each layer.”
Me: “Awesome! What do you think the future of this technology holds?”
Star: “It’s going to be big.  Everything is going to be 3D Printed eventually.  Our school is getting two more printers (Makerbot Replicators) next year.”

All three conversations were immensely interesting.   I found it an eye opener that the youngest of the three was the most informed about 3D printing, and seemed to take the most interest in it.  Whether these conversations would have been the same were I spending the holiday in New York City, or back home in Florida, I’m not so sure, but at least up here in the Midwest, it appears that the younger generations will have a leg up on this technology.  What do you think?  What do people in your home town know about 3D printing?  Discuss in the ‘Random Questions on 3D Printing’ forum thread on 3DPB.com
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