Hod Lipson, an engineer who runs the Creative Machines Lab at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, draws an analogy with the history of the computer. In the 1950s, computers were rare, expensive and owned mostly by large universities and businesses, and they required expert users to perform even relatively simple tasks. By the 1970s and 1980s, personal computers had emerged, and enthusiasts were assembling them from kits and writing their own software. Now practically everyone carries a powerful computer in their pocket and can do all manner of tasks with no programming knowledge. In the case of 3D printing, Lipson says, the transition from rare, limited and cumbersome to common, versatile and easy-to-use is happening quickly.
“I used to say we're in the 1975 of printers, and now we're in the mid-80s already,” he says. “We're still at the point where most people are not comfortable using 3D printers and design tools. Those who are can make things a lot easier for themselves and get an edge.”
Technology: Tools from scratch
Nature 503, 557–558 (28 November 2013) http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nj7477-557a