Desktop rapid prototyping? Not really.

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Representative selection from the output so far: a bike light holder, a few replacement sprockets for the printer, and some mostly unsuccessful containers – no hardware revolution here just yet…

I bought a Printrbot Jr last year to see how far I could get prototyping-wise with the cheapest 3D printer available. At $499 this was the cheapest one at the time. I did have a spot of bother getting the thing running for more than 20 minutes at a time but worked it out after a few rounds of replacement parts. As is often the case, the solution was to go over-dimensioned – in this case a 430 Watt power supply to replace the measly 50 Watt ones it kept frying.

I’ve printed a few things along the way and it’s been good fun having around. Works great for parties, perfect to stand and drink beer around while it prints a Yoda bust. But a talk I had a few days ago got me thinking about what I had originally bought the printer for, prototyping. And I realized that that doesn’t happen a whole lot. Partly because of scatterbrain and too many other projects. But also because I have come to expect that something will go wrong, meaning  I don’t know how long it will take me to complete the print I want to do. And as with any other user interaction where there is uncertainty about the commitment needed, I choose to do something else with my time. Not objectively, deliberately choose. I more just end up doing something else that means that all of a sudden I haven’t used my printer for a couple of months.

This is not to say that my printer is solely to blame for me not getting any printing done. And even when it is, the technology is improving at a rate where most of the problems I’ve run into should be fixed for most people buying a newer printer.  But the fact that I had made all these implicit decisions about whether to spend my time on some printing without realizing it, is another example of the 0 second rule. Which is a rule I just made up. It’s a measure of how much time I generally expect that a user will invest in a product to get it working. Regardless of logics, benefits, and of what they tell me they will do. 0 seconds.

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