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  1. #1

    Does Moore's Law Apply to 3D Printing?

    This is something have been discussing with some of my students.

    3D Systems CEO Avi Reichental, believes that Moore's law applies to 3D Printing. For those of you that don't know what Moore's law is, it is an observation made by the founder of Intel, Gordon Moore. He observed that every 2 years, the number of transistors on a circuit doubles. This law has held up perfectly over the years.

    As for 3D Printing, Reichental believes that these printers' performance will double up and costs will double down (presumably every 2 years).

    Do you guys think this is true?

    If this is the case, than we shoud expect some great things within the next 10 years. 2 to the 5th power (10 years) is 32. That means that printers will be 32 times more powerful, and 32 times more cost efficient in 10 years from now.

    Then again this guy is the CEO of one of the largest 3D Printing manufacturers in the world. Of course he wants people to believe this. Do you?

  2. #2
    Technologist Vanguard's Avatar
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    Laws of physics trump Moore's law. Plastic can only melt so fast, heat can only travel so fast, materials can only handle so much, there is a minimum length, and diameter melt chamber, there is an upper limit to print speed.

  3. #3
    Engineer-in-Training nka's Avatar
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    Better performance dosent always mean "faster". There's other way to make things faster, like multiple layer at the same time.

    I trust this is true ! We will see more and more price drop and more resolution, speed and reability over time!

  4. #4
    Super Moderator old man emu's Avatar
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    Vanguard's point is correct as far as it goes. I think Reichental is correct in saying that the machinery will become more cost efficient in the future as the industrial use of 3D printing moves away from a reliance on prototyping and towards printing one-off items to suit individuals. My interest is in printing prosthetics for amputees, and other bio-structures.

    I see domestic 3D printers as items of transient interest to the majority of the population, but there will always be that hard core of enthusiastic tinkerers.

    Old Man Emu

  5. #5
    I fully expect what Reichental says to come true. However, I don't think Moore's law applies here. It's like comparing apples and oranges.

    3D Printing will become a lot more efficient, faster, better quality, etc, but to put numbers on the rate at which it will happen, and the rate at which prices will fall seems silly to me.

  6. #6
    Student Artiemosk's Avatar
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    I wouldn't discount Avi Reichental's prediction so fast. Yes physics gets in the way now, as plastic needs time to melt, extrude and harden in filament printers. That's if you look at current technology which maxes out at 4 extruder heads now. What if HP figures out a way to atomize the plastic and spray it through a 14,000 nozzle extruders like in their wide format printers? Or what if a nozzle array was wide enough that it didn't have to move on one axis like the HP inkjet with no moving print head? SLA took a huge jump with the Form 1 and speeds could certainly increase with laser arrays to melt the substrate. Double the speed at half the price in 2 years... totally possible.

  7. #7
    Super Moderator
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    Quote Originally Posted by Artiemosk View Post
    What if HP figures out a way to atomize the plastic and spray it through a 14,000 nozzle extruders like in their wide format printers?
    Stratasys already does this sort of thing with their Objet printers and they hold a patent on it which is good for another 5 years.

  8. #8
    Engineer ralphzoontjens's Avatar
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    Yeah, for overall performance it could be true that it may double every two years, especially as the amount of people starting to seriously work with 3d printing seems to be exponentially increasing. But performance here does not equal speed, I see it more as a combination of all factors, so then overall performance would remain a subjective quality. For some it's more in aesthetic representation of the design intent, for other it's more to do with mechanical properties, for others speed and profitability is most important. I don't see the speed doubling every two years since that will depend a lot on the motors and materials used, and those don't evolve as fast as electrical components.

  9. #9
    I think it's more reasonable to compare the progression of 3D printers with the old 2D printers. Back in the day of dot-matrix printers, consumer level machines were slow, noisy and of low quality. Industrial machines were fast, really really noisy and of low quality. We've seen massive increases in quality, massive reductions in price but not a comparative improvement in speed. I'd venture a guess that 3D printers will go the same route - price will go down by a long way, quality will go way up but speed won't improve at the same rate.

  10. #10
    Student WildZBill's Avatar
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    Remember, 3D printing is already 30 years old. It has only had this spurt of innovation because a patent ran out and people started racing to make a cheaper printer.
    I work with a $10k printer, bottom of the line for Stratasys, and a $400 printer from Printrbot. Their output is different, but not 25 times better.
    This is very hot technology. Moving faster than anything before. People compare it to home computers and 2d printers, but there is something new happening here. It is the acceleration caused by the internet, specifically open-source hardware and software, crowd-sourcing and crowd-funding.
    I think that Moore's Law is an understatement in this case. I would say that I have already seen a doubling cycle that is close to 6 months.

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