Why a 3D printer is not a printer

I no longer like the word printer , which is used for additive layer-by-layer synthesis machines. There was no special reason to write about this whole article, but having accumulated annoyance from the articles and comments where these machines are mentioned, I decided that the reason is not too necessary.

There are several reasons for my dislike. Some of the arguments may seem controversial, but in the complex they are, in my opinion, strong enough. From a practical point of view, the article is completely useless, but it seems to me that when discussing 3D printers it is useful to know these arguments, understand them and remember them somewhere in the background.

Printer that does not print


To begin with, we will turn to those processes that are actually called printing. Interestingly, there is no disagreement between the Russian and English languages: what to print , what to print mean exactly the same actions.

Firstly, it is the process of applying a print - sometimes flat, sometimes embossed - onto some more or less flat base. The basis, of course, is not all: such actions with metal are not printing, but chasing, but with leather - stamping. But in general, the definition is true. Printed gingerbread, wax seal, that's all. Many books, and until recently everything in general, have been printed in this way since ancient times. Here one could recall Guttenberg, but he did not come up with the printing of books - only a set of individual letters and a typesetting office. One way or another, for at least five hundred years the word seal did not mean anything else.

Incidentally, this is not just about applying a print, but about applying a print at once, in one pass over the entire surface. Note that the typewriter is still typewriter, not a typewriter. The second name is found, but much less often even now, and at the beginning of the twentieth century it was almost exclusively writing. Same thing in English: typewriter, not printer. Although by the mechanism of action it is quite a printer: it prints.

Over the course of several centuries, however, books, newspapers, and other printed matter have merged so much with the concept of printing that they began to call printing any application of something on paper that is not done in a manual way. First, photos began to print. Judging by google ngram, this did not happen right away: they were manufactured for the first few decades. Then came office printers. At first, mechanically, they were the same typewriters, only automated, then matrix, inkjet, and laser ones happened. None of them transfers the impression of the entire page at once, and laser and inkjet do not deal with prints at all, however, they firmly entered the life and language.

3D printers, as is easy to see, have nothing to do with printing at all: they do not print and do not make books. Although they have something in common - a nozzle - they have with inkjet printers, and even then, the similarities are very approximate. Although it was due to this similarity that they got their name. So we are dealing with a “linguistic derivative” of a second order. So what, you ask? Since the name of the printing process has spread to inkjets, what prevents it from spreading further if the language needs it? In general, this is so. Do not count the words that today have absolutely the wrong meaning than one hundred and even more so five hundred years ago. But there is a nuance.

So different 3D printers


Now there is a tendency to combine all layer-by-layer synthesis machines into one large group and contrast them together with traditional machines. At first glance, this is logical: after all, as a first approximation, we do not distinguish between a cutting tool or a machine tool for wood and metal, between different types of machining. Although you cannot make a turned leg of a chair with a saw, and you cannot cut a log into boards with a lathe, anyway, this and that is machining. So, it would seem that synthesizing machines can be combined: what's the difference, how is the next layer applied, if it is applied?

But the differences within them are much stronger than they seem. Cutting ultimately boils down to one process of separating a cutting edge of a piece of material from another piece of material. Extrusion machines manufacturing plastic parts were also included in the category of 3D printers, from expensive and accurate jewelry for master models to cheap “household” ones; and laser sintering and alloying machines, which have much more in common with traditional powder metallurgy than with extrusion technologies; and even automatic pouring of thick concrete.

Laser machines are very expensive and complex, raw materials for them are also much more expensive than plastics, and it is almost always easier to cut a part from a workpiece; their scope is extremely narrow. However, due to the common name, people often confuse "adult" machines with household ones and are sure that this will happen soon at their place, and the transition of all plants to additive technologies is practically a settled thing - it only takes time.

Apartment or workshop?


And in general, the name “3D-printer” itself provokes the idea that “well, this is the same printer as on my desk, only 3D. Yes, while it’s expensive, and not everything can do it, but it will soon become cheaper and learn. ” Will not fall in price and will not learn. And this is the main reason why I do not like this name. A 3D printer is not a computer attachment, it is a machine. No better and no worse than turning or milling.

How many of you have at home not just a milling machine, but at least a workbench and a vice? So: if you don’t have a workbench, then there will be no 3D printer. This is a full-fledged, real machine , which is needed only in three places: in a home workshop, in a laboratory, in an individual production workshop.

If you have a hobby, you want to do something at home, please. Milling, turning, additive - each machine is good in its own way, and none can fully replace the other. Choose what is more necessary and interesting for you personally. Just understand that in any case you need either a separate room for the workshop, or a readiness for the living room to turn into a workshop.

If you need to make prototypes of several products - excellent, an additive plastic machine will cost your laboratory much cheaper than several molds for plastic molding. As soon as you enter the series, casting will become cheaper.

If you need to make three products of a very cunning shape - a rocket engine with complex cooling channels or something like that - contact those who have a powder laser machine. If the product needs to be mass-produced, find a way to simplify it and adapt it at least to the CNC machining center. It will come out almost certainly faster, cheaper and more durable.

The average person does not need a 3D printer. How many do not need a photo printer: once it seemed that everyone would print photos at home, but it turned out that they stopped printing at all, they looked right from the screen. If you still need to print, then going to the darkroom is often easier than buying a printer. If your plastic part is broken, it will be cheaper to buy or order in a workshop that already has a 3D printer and where ten parts are made on it per day, and not three per year. If the metal broke, then additive technologies will not help you at all. There are no “household” metal printers and there will be none in the foreseeable future, but most likely, never. Roads are not needed.

What to do?


Nothing, alas.

Unfortunately, the language has already “swallowed” this expression. Fighting with 3D printers is pointless, as it is pointless to fight against, for example, planting words . A competent person today will never say that - just plant , but no matter how annoying it is, the language is changing, vernacular planting with the spread of the Internet is being used more and more often in print, and perhaps it will become the norm; going against the tide is useless. It makes no sense to require routers or even routers instead of routers - the router has already entered the language, it is too late and does not need to be changed.

If the language needs a 3D printer, it will be there. Even in my hater note, a 3D printer is three times more common than an additive machine. But it is useful not to forget that he is actually a machine tool, and not a printer.

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