BBC Breakfast 3D Printing
Rory Cellan-Jones and Susanna Reid discuss 3D printing on BBC Breakfast
As the BBC started a piece on their breakfast show about 3D printing with questions on printing your own money or even your own human, they unwittingly exposed the limitations of desktop printing to 1.5 million viewers.
Technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones was in studio and out meeting some well-known 3D printers to discuss the technology, he visited iMakr to get involved in some scan-to-print options. He got his favourite mug scanned in store by an Kinect at the same time as getting his head scanned using stills which we presume are put into 123D Catch.
Rory then showed off his fancy new mug in the studio with one not so subtle difference to the one printing in the VT; it was yellow whereas the Flashforge printer in the VT was clearly printing in white, which means either it was printing for demo purposes because the scan needed cleaning up or it failed. Both very time consuming foibles of the tech that mainstream press consistently neglect to mention.
Rory also showed the watching world the model that had been printed of his head, the one printed on a desktop printer looked a bit of a mess so they got a nice colour one instead. The good colour model looked suspiciously like it had been printed by a Z-Corp colour printer, a $60,000 one at that.
In the studio, while contributor Cellan-Jones discussed the capabilities of 3D printers with presenter Susanna Reid, a Maplin Velleman K8200 whirred away in the background. It had printed a spanner for the first segment, one which Susanna rightly questioned the strength of.
After Rory Cellan-Jones had said that scientists are working on ways to “print” human organs Susanna Reid asked “We’ll be printing humans soon won’t we?” all the while the Velleman was printing a pair of tweezers… that didn’t work.
That is no slight on the Velleman, we’ve seen it in action and it is a good, solid FDM 3D printer but it is not revolutionary and this FDM type of 3D printing is not the technology that will be printing organs. The lack of distinction by the mainstream press between domestic printers and industrial ones is causing confusion amongst the general public.
Jonathan Rowley of Digits 2 Widgets - who are at the cutting edge of the industrial 3D printing – spoke to us briefly on how he felt the segments were misrepresentative of the technology as a whole. Jonathan feels that the hype over desktop printers is detrimental to the genuinely stunning items coming out of the industrial sector. While the Digits 2 Widgets of this world produce beautiful models like those of Electrobloom, the mainstream press focus on the home printers and don’t mention their limitations: “I have a feeling there will be a lot of these desktop printers on ebay very soon.”
The problem with any new technology is hype and hype’s consistent ability to blow all advancements out of proportion. All this mainstream interest in 3D printing looks like we’re heading into the ‘Peak of inflated expectations’ on the hype-cycle for 3D Printing, we expect the ‘Trough of disillusionment’ to hit when these current FDM printers fall in price and are snapped up by people who don’t know how to use them.
So when good old Auntie Beeb says “You can pick a printer up for about the same price as a high-end television” right after saying “…We often talk about printing our own money…” we hope you’ll take those claims with a pinch of salt and study what these machines are really good for: things like this prosthetic hand or prototyping products rapidly.