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Recently I read an article titled A Lack of R&D May Kill the 3d Printing Gold Rush by Ashlee Vance on BloombergBusinessWeek (who names these things nowadays?). The article points out that ‘3D printing has no Moore’s law’ and that this will result in less progress, or more shallow, less of a quick buck for investors.

The assumption that faster and more powerful chips and circuits are the only reason personal computing was worth investing in just rings false to me. My company does software for a living and I can tell you that the best programmer can do miraculous things with a meager 386 running Linux in server mode. Mr. Moore need not apply.

This is an antiquated view of computing, isn’t it? Think about it. When I can summon hundreds of thousands of ‘cores’ on Google’s infrastructure to process my problem, do we really think the machine on which we make that request really needs an SSE4 instruction set capability on the chip, or an FPU that is higher than last year’s model? I’m playing with some historical computer trivia here but I think you get my point.

For digitizing the atoms, rather than the bits, as 3D printing does, perhaps we need a new law, or maybe I just don’t know the name of it. This law would describe the behavior of a technology that 1) facilitates creating an object cheaper as it increases in complexity; and 2) permits just in time delivery of personalized products without historical customization costs, and unleashes 3) significant customer satisfaction. Maybe we could call it Bre’s Law? ;)

To me the beauty of the universal logic tool (the personal computer) isn’t Moore’s Law (do we seriously think OS bloat was a good thing?). Instead it is the kids (like me) who got them in their hands at age 12 and put in the thousands of hours learning how to use them to do amazing things. The most amazing thing about the personal computer revolution was that it was something that created a wave of new capability for our species.

I believe 3dp can have a similar impact in human terms. Vance may be lucky enough to be around when this is realized and perhaps write about it then. For now I think there is a point that is missing.

It isn’t about building a holodeck but making the idea of a holodeck real in the minds of millions of 12 year old innovators. They are the ones that will create their own laws that will drive the digital manufacturing revolution to places we have yet to fully imagine.

4 Responses to “Do we need a Bre’s Law?”

  1. David Bley says:

    We are quite good at producing things. I think that an area that we are really bad at is generating ideas of things to produce. This is where I believe the potential of current 3D home technology rests. I believe that 3D printing will produce a proliferation of new products. 3D printing gives us the ability to quickly realize a physical product of our imagination. Out of this vast proliferation will come new product ideas that will result in the creation of new companies to produce these products using more conventional methods. At this time I don’t see much manufacturing done using 3D methods as the production rate, accuracy, surface finish and strength of 3D printed parts is much less than we are accustomed to.

  2. T.J. says:

    I enjoyed meeting you today and seeing your setup @ 4th floor.

    Great insight here! Sometimes people will come to me with an unnecessarily complicated and expensive product and say, “This is ‘overengineered’. Fix it!”

    I just want to scream, “IT’S NOT OVERENGINEERED! It’s not engineered, ENOUGH!”

    Part of advancing technology is figuring out what is important and removing wasted material and processes. Especially true for 3dp and astronomically true of 3dp for home/hobby. Removing all the expensive chips and proprietary components and replacing them with off the shelf components and arduinos has probably been the biggest step in launching 3dp widespread. From, here it may redouble, or it may not, but it will sure catalyze an unimaginable amount of creativity and invention, so I see it as a win either way.

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