You get to the heart of the issue. These devices neet to either have a dramatic drop in cost to be making such items, or a great increase in versitility to achieve a level of usefulness to the average consumer.
That is an interesting take on it. How do you see such a workflow developing, and at what stage does the person scan the components? If it is after they have broke, it would take some real smarts behind the device to make such a system to work. It is an interesting thought.
I agree with Tony...there will be some 3-D printer shops and services...but very few people will own them...what for? I fail to see ANY mass market consumer applications of this over-hyphed technology...Kris
Regular printers are cheap and pretty good but many people still use "service bureaus" such as Costco, the local drugstore, and on-line to print photos, and, especially, unusual photo products such as large prints, mugs, canvas prints, metal prints, puzzles, etc.
I'd say a closer match to 3-D printer are photo printers (especially the large ones from Canon, Epson, & HP). How many people have them? Only the dedicated photo enthusiasts. It's similar to other hobbies: how many people own Proxxon rotary tools?
I think it'll be similar with 3-D printing: only the dedicated makers will have 3-D printers, but there will be a lot of room for service companies making customizable stuff using higher end 3D printers.
Hopefully, the maker market will be large enough to breed innovation and competition -- the market for high end cameras (bascially, all DSLRs and M-ILCs) and photo printers is big enough, and the cost isn't too far off from what a decent 3D printer will probably cost (in the $1000's, not the $100's).
As a replacement for a Mattel Thingmaker or Vac-u-form, 3D printers are very impressive. More seriously, they are great for making 3D models and replacing missing game pieces.
However, when I need replacement parts it's generally because the old part has worn out or has started to leak. So it's unlikely that the materials available for current 3D printers are going to be robust enough for something that gets a lot of wear (like a car part or a cane tip or a shoe sole) or have the right sealing properies for plumbing parts.
They also don't provide a good solution for making single-quantity PCBs for projects with high-density SMT components. And we're pretty far from having a 3-D printer generate custom integrated circuits.
But we're still in the early stages of the technology.
I don't think 3D printers will ever become as ubiquitous as their 2D counterparts unless they start to be totally "hands-free" as it were -- like if it looked like a microwave oven -- and you placed a part you want to replicate inside and press the "Scan/Copy" button -- then you take that part out, close th edoor, and press the "Print" button.
When it comes to 3D printing at home, this is really useful technology when it comes to replacement items you can't get for existing products -- and also for one-of-a-kind items you want for your own projects.