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Myth Busting

10 Biggest Myths Around 3D Printing

Picture of Tobias Hullette
by Tobias Hullette
Feb 6, 2019

With the rise of 3D printing, misconceptions have also popped up. Here are 10 common myths about 3D printing. Let's separate fact from fiction.

3D Printing Myths The Legend of 3D Printing

Concept 3D printed houses by Eindhoven University of Technology.
Concept 3D printed houses by Eindhoven University of Technology. Source: dezeen.com

3D printing is a manufacturing technology that creates three-dimensional objects by layering materials in succession according to 3D digital models. In other words, 3D printing is fascinating.

Yet, although the technology has been around for a while now, some still underestimate (and some exaggerate) the capabilities of 3D printing. The aim of this article, then, is to correct some of the most common misconceptions!

3D Printing Myths 1. 3D Printers Are Too Expensive

The Creality Ender 3, one of the most popular printers on the market, sells for less than $200.
The Creality Ender 3, one of the most popular printers on the market, sells for less than $200. Source: makerfab-electronics.com

The idea that 3D printers are too expensive has kept lots of people from 3D printing. Of course, when 3D printing was first invented by Chuck Hull in 1984, the price of a 3D printer soared into six digits! However, things have changed over the years.

Now, the cost of a 3D printer can fit into most every budget. While some enormous 3D printers can cost over a million dollars, hundreds of 3D printers fit into the sub-$5,000, -$1,000, -$500, and -$200 price ranges. Right now, the market is flooded with cheap 3D printers that won’t break the bank. There’s even a 3D printer on Kickstarter for $49 USD.

In case you were wondering, 3D printing material is also relatively cheap, with a typical 1-kg spool of plastic coming in at as low as $20 USD. 

3D Printing Myths 2. 3D Printers Can Make Anything

Catnip anyone?
Catnip anyone? Source: Pinterest

A common misconception about 3D printing is the idea that 3D printers can make anything. However, just like other manufacturing processes, 3D printing has its limitations. Sadly, cuddly kittens are not on the list of 3D printable items.

Nevertheless, the list of 3D printable items is by no means small! Companies are constantly developing new materials and machines to push the limits of 3D printing.

For example, the D-Shape 3D printer can make houses and some companies have developed outside-the-box materials such as chocolate, ashes, and even chewing gum. 

3D Printing Myths 3. 3D Printers Cannot Make Strong Components

Tough as nails!
Tough as nails! Source: 3D Printing Media Network

3D printing is often viewed as a process that can only make weak, plastic parts. To an extent, this is true. A part composed of layers will generally exhibit less mechanical integrity than a solid part. However, it would be wrong to think that all 3D printed parts are weak.

3D prints with wide layers or high infill have increased layer adhesion and improved solidity that result in stronger components.

Also, 3D printing isn’t just for plastic. Some 3D printers can print with strong materials such as nylon, carbon fiber, and even titanium

3D Printing Myths 4. Bowden 3D Printers Cannot Print Flexible Materials

Guided filament is happy filament.
Guided filament is happy filament. Source: Forefront Filament

Flexible materials are awesome! The applications are endless, ranging from running shoes to phone cases. However, some believe that 3D printers with Bowden extruders can’t print with flexibles. This idea has kept lots of makers from using filaments such as TPU, TPE, or Nylon. 

Of course, with the added friction from a Bowden tube, flexible materials are prone to bind or clog. However, if you make sure that flexible filament doesn’t have anywhere to go but the nozzle, you’re set for success!

3D Printing Myths 5. 3D Printers Are Faster Than Other Processes

Injection molding is great for large-scale production.
Injection molding is great for large-scale production. Source: R&D Molders

3D printing is often advertised as a rapid prototyping process, but that doesn’t mean it’s a rapid manufacturing process. 3D printing is great for small scale production or prototyping, but on large scale, it’s rather impractical in comparison to other manufacturing processes.

While 3D printing retains the same speed per unit regardless of the number of units, injection molding produces units at a faster speed per unit, the more units are produced. Consequently, if speed is the highest priority, people will choose 3D printing for small-batch production and injection molding (or a like process) for large scale manufacturing. 

3D Printing Myths 6. 3D Printed Guns Are a Major Problem

Cody Wilson, designer of the Liberator.
Cody Wilson, designer of the Liberator. Source: All3DP

3D printed guns have worried a lot of people. However, the reality is that the situation isn’t nearly as bad is it sounds.

In most countries around the world, it’s illegal to 3D print a gun. In fact, simply having the STL file will get you arrested. Those facts aside, 3D printed guns are highly impractical, as they have a high probability of breaking or exploding in the hands of the shooter.

“But, WAIT!” you say, “I thought you said that some 3D printers can print with metal. Shouldn’t metal 3D printed guns be feared?” Not really. The cheapest metal 3D printer is almost $100,000 USD. At this price, it would most likely be cheaper and easier to obtain a gun some other way.

In light of these facts, 3D printed guns are definitely not a huge societal problem. 

3D Printing Myths 7. 3D Printers Can Make Organs

Thump, Thump, Thump, ...
Thump, Thump, Thump, ... Source: Evolving Science

3D printing technologies continue to improve, as companies keep developing more advanced machines and materials. Medicine is one major application of 3D printing, and doctors have used it to create tissues and bones.

One goal is to eventually 3D print organs. Though not yet a reality, in several years, your organ donor may be a 3D printer…

3D Printing Myths 8. 3D Printing is Still an Unstable Industry

Josef Prusa has over 300 printers in one room!
Josef Prusa has over 300 printers in one room! Source: PrusaPrinters

Last year, the 3D printing industry exceeded $7.3 billion. Hundreds of 3D printer companies are selling 3D printers, and thousands of customers are buying them. For those who don’t have the time, money, or patience to deal with in-house 3D printing, countless 3D printing services have popped up to save the day.

Because some parts are too complex or expensive to manufacture with traditional processes, 3D printing is priceless for consumers in various fields of study and business. So, don’t doubt 3D printing just yet. High demand for 3D printing will continue to multiply its success as an industry. 

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3D Printing Myths 9. 3D Printing is Only for Nerds

Nerd Alert!
Nerd Alert! Source: 3dwithus

Admittedly, many 3D printing enthusiasts are nerds. However, 3D printing is an activity that can be enjoyed by anyone!

3D printers are practical machines that help doctors, engineers, designers, tradesmen, tinkerers, and students bring ideas to life. Just like a drill or a lathe, a 3D printer is a tool. Therefore, 3D printing is not limited to “foolish or contemptible people who lack social skills or are boringly studious.”

3D Printing Myths 10. Soon Every Home Will Have a 3D Printer

This printer blends right in!
This printer blends right in! Source: 3Dmagine

Many times, people equate 3D printers with typical inkjet home printers. Drawing this comparison leads some to believe that soon every home will have a 3D printer just like nearly every home has a paper printer. However, 3D printers (at least right now) pose a level of difficulty that not everyone wants to deal with.

Even the so-called, “Plug & Play” machines are not as easy as “Push the Green Button”. Plus, not everyone has a use for a 3D printer. If someone only needs one part, buying from a 3D printing service is more efficient than purchasing a whole machine.

Perhaps one day, every home will have a 3D printer, but it might take a few more years…

License: The text of "10 Biggest Myths Around 3D Printing" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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