3D Printing – not the web, but maybe 3D going “mainstream”?

Obviously, 3D printing and the 3D web are not the same thing. But at the core, two similarities persist – they both involve modeling things in 3D, and they both move very, very quickly from Science Fiction to reality, as soon as the market has access to the hardware required to bring them to life.

Even just a few years ago, 3D printing was really fringe stuff. I discovered the arrival of commercially viable 3D printers quite by accident – my old website, houseof3d.com, experienced an insane surge of advertising revenue. So insane, really, that I was concerned that my site was being messed with by bots that skew the results of online advertising, for nefarious purposes. Can’t have no nefarious purposes messing with my nice website, so I had to look into it.

This was around 2008 or 2009. If you, like me, think that there’s an unsettling dearth of people and websites devoted to 3D on the open web today, way back then, 7 years ago or so, it was a complete ghost town. Houseof3d.com was already seriously in decline, due to the demise (or mothballing) of many technologies, including VRML, Cosmo Player, and good old-fashioned browser-Java. Flash was still cool – and sites weren’t yet falling off the face of the web for failing to render reasonably on smartphones.

When I looked into what was going on with my site, I found nothing nefarious – I found that there existed something called “3D Printers”, that they were for sale, and that they were at a price point that at least some small part of the market/enterprise could bear. And they were advertising like MAD on my site. Taking up every spot, and paying out bucks and bucks for even one little click. The smart money was talking. And while I was listening – the creation of solid objects is not where I see my future. Virtual things that are interactive, entertaining, and/or educational – that’s more my kind of thing than precision solid objects.

That was 7 years ago. Where are we today?

What about “mainstream?”

Well, today I saw that Mattel, the huge toy manufacturer, is releasing a 3D printer. As a toy.


Note the use of the term “mainstream” in the address and the title of the article. Yeah, I’d tend to agree, once Mattel goes to the bother of making a toy version of a technology – that technology is entering the mainstream.

The kids who play with this – imagine how they will feel about 3D printing in the future? To them, it will seem as obvious as one of those things that prints on paper is to me. Or as a “television set” is to someone who grew up in the 1950s.

Which, just in passing, reminds me of a line from the original Back to the Future movie: “Oh, honey, he’s teasing you. Nobody has two television sets.


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Author: Pete

Editor-in-Chief, Lead Software Developer and Artistic Director @ 3dspace.com