Why should you read this: to discover if we will ever use 3D printers to print replacement parts at home, starting from vacuum cleaners.
For many large and traditional enterprises, there are two ways to approach 3D printing. One is to make everything 3D printable, thus rendering their product’s parts fully replaceable through files provided upon purchase or through their website. The other is to remain in the strict context of limited upgrades, plug-in parts and minor collectible products around their brand name.
By releasing two 3D printable vacuum cleaner accessories, Hoover chose the latter, which is a more natural first step for big corporations whose first concern is to showcase a more modern approach to support their marketing efforts. Sometimes, though, a small step for a large company can become a great advancement for “3Dprintkind”.
A dam for free flowing innovation
In spite of this timid approach, Hoover, leaving the other giants on the field of vacuum cleaning products watching closely for customers reactions, especially iRobot, which recently released the open source kit of its vaccuum cleaning robot. Hoover published the two official accessories on 3D model database Thingiverse, along with a couple of decorative models, while has also announcing exciting future plans for 3D printed parts that can be built in the homes of their customers like alternative hoses, replacement wheels and custom designed casing.
At this initial stage, though, they are teasing with gadgets like flashlight and battery mounts for some of their models. Some customers may be asking themselves if the age of 3D printed appliances is really approaching, or whether we’re still playing marketing games. This is again a question of offer and demand as large manufacturers will never give up on their part selling profits as long as customers have no other choice, while customers on the other side will never buy a 3D printer as long as they can’t print actually useful replacement parts with it.
Vacuum cleaners that don’t “suck”
What can come to the rescue (of the customers) is open source. In fact some users have already created items such as a Hoover to Dyson adapter and other useful original parts (which may have prompted Hoover to release the official ones in the first place) The only way that large corporations will stop playing games and start offering 3D printable files of parts is through the development of open source appliances. People will be able to print their own vacuums – like Hans Fouche did just a couple of weeks ago) free from limiting copyrights and with wide customization margins. This will hopefully put the profits of classic manufacturers on a standstill, and they will finally be obliged to offer more freedom in order to become competitive choices again.
Another scenario is that the same can happen through the rise of small companies in every home appliance sector. With 3D printing advancements, more and more companies can get in the game of manufacturing and building 3D printed appliances that can be highly customized and replaced at will by their owners. Appliances can reach the point where only parts like motors and turbines will be physically sold, while all rest will be printed at home. That is what an Israeli start up called Pzartech is banking on, by offering locally 3D printed plastic replacement parts, including a vacuum cleaner adapter among the first designs available in the testing phase. Until that day comes though, we will have to remain patient, while the large corporations make their first moves. History has shown that big players often fight progress but now, with 3D printing pushing the boundaries of innovation at all levels, not even the Hoover Dam will be able to contain it.
License: The text of "Print Your Vacuum Cleaner Replacement Parts" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.