Saturday, May 03, 2008


Economics (n. pl.: the management of a household)

Here's a reprapped coat-hook:

It took me 12 minutes to design in Art of Illusion, then I set it running in my home RepRap machine. The quality is a bit splodgy because, since I upgraded to the Arduino, I've been trying to maximize my build speed, and I have overcooked the outline printing rate a bit; I'll back it off for the next one.

Anyway. I went out for the afternoon, then I came back. Now I have a coat-hook that I didn't have before. Utterly trivial, except:

1. I have somewhere in my lab to hang my lab-coat, as opposed to draping it over my camera tripod:


2. An economist once told me that the world market for coat-hooks is bigger than the world market for gas turbines...

The design for the hook is in the RepRap repository here.

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I've been quietly following RepRap news for over a year now, and been somewhat impressed by the shot glasses, and the makes-all-its-own-parts thing, but seeing this utterly practical actual-use case... wow. It really made me aware for the first time what this project is really about, and how amazing it's going to be (and already is).
Excellent, it is so evident that we need more useful stuff. This is a very good start!

I encourage everyone to start designing stuff like this. Good work Adrian! It's also nice to imagine a "Click to print coat-hanger" button.
Thanks folks. Vik is concentrating on reproduction, and I am going for utility items. Each such item gives everyone that item, of course. But reproduction will give everyone everything...

You want to tell us the actual cost for that thing and its mechanical insufficiencies (lab "coats" weight close to nothing)...

Try cutting a strip of soda bottle using a common razor on a flat with a spacer and bolt and feed it through a soldering iron or hot glue head and tell us the comparitive strength, effectiveness, and costs.

RepRap is consistently worse than the imperial patent system in its "fraud" and disinformation.

5 seconds with a heater coil and pet-1 bottle versus your 5 years of bullship.
What a cross patch! Maybe he has shares in a coat-hook company :-)

The hook can support more than 10 kg (then I ran out of weights...)

It cost me about 15 pence.

And look up the etymology of "economics", why don't you?
Wilfred may need to switch to decaf, but it does not dignify his attitude to answer his question.

This example does not demonstrate the true economic value of the technology. There is nothing unique about the coathook; it is not a special design that is either artistically unique nor a replacement part which the manufacturer would charge $35 plus another $25 S&H.

Perhaps the best precedent to look at here is desktop publishing and digital photography. In my own 32 years, I've seen us go from having to mail your film to the lab and wait a week to see prints, to being able to create and print magazine-quality publications entirely on my own. This has led to a huge increase in the quality and availability of unique voices.

And yet, the most efficient way to deliver a copy of Time Magazine to a reader remains to have a giant press somewhere run off millions of copies to be delivered through the mail.

The real value in RepRap lies in its ability to do what mass manufacturing cannot do efficiently, which is "print one copy." Five years from now, I see people using RepRap to make models and figurines, to make custom cases for iPods and phones, and all sorts of other little trinkets. I see a HUGE increase in the use of rapid prototyping in R&D and manufacturing due to the dramatic decrease in costs. As to coathangers vs. gas turbines, I would bet a lot of money that the global profit in gas turbines is 2 or more orders of magnitude above that of coathangers. I can't name a manufacturer of coathangers, but I can think of 4 gas turbine manufacturers off the top of my head.

Where things could change is if/when RepRap can dramatically increase the finish quality of parts. If so, then this opens a new door to adding economic value to everyday goods through aesthetics. To wit, if you have five coathangers in your hallway, adding five more does not really add any value for you. But, a uniquely beautiful coathanger designed by (insert name here) may give you some special delight. If you're having a dinner party, perhaps you will make a fork specifically for the occasion, or even entire place settings.

In other words, it won't replace existing modes of consumption nearly so much as it will create entirely new ones. For those who believe these types of machines can provide ecological benefit, it raises the importance of making RepRapped goods easily recyclable back to feedstock.
Amazing work Adrian!

For me, this is even better than the ipod holder, because only a few people need an ipod holder, but almost everyone needs a coat hook.

A similar item that costs a surprising amount is a decorative curtain holder. When I went into a curtain store and saw some curtain holders, I thought they looked good, probably worth a dollar or two..

Try twenty, fifty, so much my eyes refused to look at the prices anymore. Sure they're only a dollar or so of metal, but since they're different, decorative shapes they're worth many times the material price. They're all made of metal, but decorative items could be made out of marble dust concrete. Hopefully we'll be able to fabricate concrete or at least plastic with marble dust.
Wow Wilfred! Take a pill! Who took a leak in your soup today? :-s
The cost of RepRapping today is not reflective of what the cost will be when RepRaps are ubiquitous. If every household that currently has an Internet connection had a RepRap, the plastic manufacturers would be working hard to compete for hundreds of billions of dollars of domestic business. Bulk plastic will be something you can buy in WalMart. That'll get the price of bulk plastic down considerably.

Being able to recycle RepRap plastic would also become an important matter. With care, that reduces the cost to that of the electricity.

You also have to include into the price of the store-bought coathook, the cost and inconvenience of going to the store to buy it versus typing "coathook" into "Google/RepRap", clicking on the one you want - then clicking on the "3Dprint" button on your browser.

Furthermore - the store will have a selection of perhaps five different coathooks - each available in just one color. When RepRaps are everywhere, there will be a hundred different coathooks for free download on or whatever.
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