Computer numerical control (CNC) machines were first used in the 1940s, and since then the industry has come a long way from using punch cards and punch tape. Nowadays CNC and 3D printing have started making pushes towards personal hobbies as opposed to an industrial automation of machine tools. This is a very interesting time for the CNC machinist but the industry has nothing to fear… for the near future.
Personal in-home CNC/3D printing is one of the fastest growing hobbies out there, but the personal 3D printer has a ways to go before reaching industry standards. Not only is industrial CNC machining light years ahead as far as production potential and professional design go, but personal CNC/3D Printing is asking for legal troubles. Now don’t me wrong, there are some very talented individual CAD designer hobbiests, but they are very limited to large scale productions. There are very few people out there who can, first off, afford, and secondly, have the time to create products on the scale of industrial CNC machinists.
Not only are there huge physical limitations on personal CNC/3D printing, but the future legal limitations could be huge. Once the personal industry grows there will be many people violating patent and public laws. Take the recent gun laws which only allow magazines to hold a maximum of 10 bullets. Personal CNC/3D Printing enthusiasts can now print off magazines holding 30 bullets (see “The Cuomo Clip”). These files in turn can be sent through the internet and printed off on any 3D Printer. The Cuomo Clip is a perfect example of a magazine printed off a 3D printer which holds 30 bullets. Furthermore, not only can you now print illegal magazines, but there are even some people able to print of working guns. This adds a whole new element to the already tumultuous issue of gun control and public safety. Adding insult to injury, personal CNC/3D printing opens a whole new world up to piracy and patent violation. People this very day print off LEGO pieces made from exactly the same standard ABS Plastic which LEGOs are made out of.
Personal CNC/3D printing is not all bad. A lot of good can come out of the growth of this industry including decreased costs of medical equipment, shipping costs of small parts, as well as increased innovation and positive externalities. This should not take anything away from the value which industrial CNC machinists generate for the economy. No personal printers can print anything for economies of scale like industrial printers can. At the end of the day industrial machinists have very little to worry about personal CNC/3D printing and even once the physical capabilities are there the legal ramifications will halt the personal printing industry.
Article written by Jet Russell. Jet is a full time blogger and loves writing articles on all sorts of topics including one of his favorites in particular – CNC machining.