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Old 09-05-2017, 06:37 PM   #1
Michael Thayne
 
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Default How hard is it to acquire raw materials for 3D printing?

The main THS book twice lists the raw materials required for 3D printing: “liquid plastic, conductive and resistive ceramics, metal powders, powder-epoxy composites, or self-assembling nanostructures” (p. 70) or in a slight variation “self-assembling smart ink, liquid plastic, carbon nanotubes, metallic powders, and so on" (p. 153). How hard are these to acquire? For the most part, THS seems to assume that if some asteroid homesteaders or a terrorist organization gets their hands on a 3D printer and the plans for what they want to build, they can build it. Biological items are mentioned as an important exception, and obviously 3D printers can't synthesize elements (for e.g. building a nuclear weapon). But other than that, is acquiring smart ink, nanotubes, "self-assembling nanostructures" and so on a challenge for users of 3D printers? Or are they easy to synthesize as long as you have a feed stock of the necessary elements?
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Old 09-05-2017, 06:54 PM   #2
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Default Re: How hard is it to acquire raw materials for 3D printing?

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But other than that, is acquiring smart ink, nanotubes, "self-assembling nanostructures" and so on a challenge for users of 3D printers? Or are they easy to synthesize as long as you have a feed stock of the necessary elements?
Neither one? THS doesn't go into detail that I know of, but it probably requires fairly extensive infrastructure to produce those materials -- but they're also legal bulk commodities, so not hard to buy in most places.
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Old 09-05-2017, 07:01 PM   #3
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Default Re: How hard is it to acquire raw materials for 3D printing?

I'd guess at default that they're as easy to acquire as bread. While possible to make from scratch using one's own field of wheat, it's almost always more hassle that it's worth.
Out of the way colonies just get occasional shipments and ration what they have rather than going 100% never need contact with any other industrial scale group ever again.
That's certainly adjustable for setting preferences.
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Old 09-05-2017, 08:05 PM   #4
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Default Re: How hard is it to acquire raw materials for 3D printing?

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Neither one? THS doesn't go into detail that I know of, but it probably requires fairly extensive infrastructure to produce those materials -- but they're also legal bulk commodities, so not hard to buy in most places.
This seems inconsistent with the descriptions of how space colonies and space trade (for lack of a better term) work. Nanotubes are never mentioned as an important trade good in the deep beyond, for example.

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I'd guess at default that they're as easy to acquire as bread. While possible to make from scratch using one's own field of wheat, it's almost always more hassle that it's worth.
Out of the way colonies just get occasional shipments and ration what they have rather than going 100% never need contact with any other industrial scale group ever again.
That's certainly adjustable for setting preferences.
I like this interpretation. It's AFAICT consistent with everything else in the setting, but is a bit more plausible than assuming nanotubes and such are easy to make.
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Old 09-06-2017, 01:20 AM   #5
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Default Re: How hard is it to acquire raw materials for 3D printing?

IIRC Deep Beyond mentions some miners being self-sufficient with the aid of a printer, which implies that on-site production is quite doable? So perhaps the systems required for producing feedstock for printers are within an order of magnitude of the printers themselves? Been a while since I read DB.
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Old 09-06-2017, 03:06 AM   #6
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Default Re: How hard is it to acquire raw materials for 3D printing?

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This seems inconsistent with the descriptions of how space colonies and space trade (for lack of a better term) work. Nanotubes are never mentioned as an important trade good in the deep beyond, for example.
A lot of it might be in reach of a robofac, but it's not garage stuff.
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Old 09-06-2017, 04:11 AM   #7
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Default Re: How hard is it to acquire raw materials for 3D printing?

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Originally Posted by vicky_molokh View Post
IIRC Deep Beyond mentions some miners being self-sufficient with the aid of a printer, which implies that on-site production is quite doable? So perhaps the systems required for producing feedstock for printers are within an order of magnitude of the printers themselves? Been a while since I read DB.
That seems plausibly similar to the real-world situation: you can make your own PLA filament (from pellets or recycled prints), but the hardware to do it costs about as much as or more than the 3D printer, and quality control is hard work.
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Old 09-06-2017, 04:58 AM   #8
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Default Re: How hard is it to acquire raw materials for 3D printing?

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That seems plausibly similar to the real-world situation: you can make your own PLA filament (from pellets or recycled prints), but the hardware to do it costs about as much as or more than the 3D printer, and quality control is hard work.
My point was 'yes, extra expensive, but not prohibitively so, and not bad enough to prevent space colonies by stubborn survivalists (of which there are plenty)'.
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Old 09-06-2017, 07:26 AM   #9
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Default Re: How hard is it to acquire raw materials for 3D printing?

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My point was 'yes, extra expensive, but not prohibitively so, and not bad enough to prevent space colonies by stubborn survivalists (of which there are plenty)'.
As TS doesn't have transmutation of elements, though, there will still be limitations.

Also, one day, the fiddly issue of the level of resolution of standard 3D printers at any given TL will have to be put on the table.
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Old 09-06-2017, 07:35 AM   #10
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Default Re: How hard is it to acquire raw materials for 3D printing?

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As TS doesn't have transmutation of elements, though, there will still be limitations.
Of course. I'm pretty sure that in the era when minifactoring is displacing traditional production of goods due to being in multiple ways better, the chemicals used in goods will differ from modernity, with more focus on those that are easier to find.

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Also, one day, the fiddly issue of the level of resolution of standard 3D printers at any given TL will have to be put on the table.
Well, THS printers seem to be good enough to print computers of its era, which means that the resolution level so good that it isn't gonna limit people in most circumstances (TS69).
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