The Cambrian Explosion of 3D Printing


542 million years ago most of the known animal diversity came into being in the geological blink of an eye! If that sounds like creationism rather than Darwinian evolution it is only because I was being dramatic in my word choice.   The Cambrian Explosion was a period of less than 25 million years where all animal phyla are suddenly distinctly recognizable in fossils. I personally believe that the cause of this dramatic “leap” in evolution was that HOX genes made body design complexity more easily modified by mutation but this blog is not about my mad theories or the Cambrian explosion. I want to use the Cambrian explosion as a metaphor for this period of rampant creation in the 3d printing market place. To make that metaphor, I need to tell you one more thing about the Cambrian Explosion. Not only did the recognizable ancestors of sponges, starfish, worms, coral, lobsters and a tiny worm-like organism with a backbone, that would give rise to humans and all other vertebrates appear in the geological blink of an eye, there were also many organisms that clearly have no descendants in our modern day life. For instance, Opabinia, a lobster like organism but with 5 eyes and a clawed proboscis (like an elephant’s trunk).


Okay there was a lot of diversity, but what does that have to do with 3D printing? Well, right now there is a dizzying number of 3d printer manufactures in the market place. 3D Systems and Stratasys are the giants in the 3d printing market but I am not sure they are going to weather the turmoil of this rampant creativity. If you were in the Cambrian period that five eyed Opabina would have looked like it was winning the evolutionary arms race because they were a lot more common than that funny little worm that gave rise to humans and all chordates.


I have been weighting if I want to buy a higher quality printer, Flash Forge Creator Pro. I feel fairly confident that any 3d printer that I buy now will be obsolete in 5 years. My printrbot simple maker has already been made obsolete by the printrbot play. I find myself telling people that I like my printrbot more than my M3D but I can not fully endorse the printrbot play because I have never actually seen one in action. But don’t take my word for it, Make Magazine rated the printrbot play best for schools.

My 3d printers allow me to prototype the designs and teach myself 3d modeling but I feel fairly confident that in 5 years any FFF printer will be seen as an old clunky machine that you only use if you don’t have access to the nicer CLIP systems. I feel like I know that buying new nicer is hardware not going to pay for itself by improving how many people ask me to print things for them. My current hardware allows me to test my ideas and motivate myself to model objects that I want but can’t find at the store. The software skills that I am developing might generate more revenue for my company than any of the actual designs that I am prototyping and considering patenting/copyrighting.

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