July 28, 2003

The beginning of the end for planned obsolescence

Replacing well engineered, durable parts with cheap ones that break and cost so much in labor to fix that you're better off just buying a new appliance is an old manufacturer's trick. But what if you could make your own replacement parts? The strategy no longer works because with your own parts, you can replace them yourself and not be stuck having to pay for the repairman that is attached to those custom parts you can't order yourself.

This has wide implications all across the manufacturing economy. As these 3D printers get perfected, they will come down in price and win a wider and wider market, reducing the need to hire craftsman (though increasing the need for do-it-yourself classes). It would also tend to reduce the amount of stock that a hardware store has to keep on hand. all they would need would be very large, very efficient 3D printers of their own to manufacture a large proportion of their own stock without the need for wholesalers. Home Depot might still carry highly durable tools that a 3D printer can't make but to some extent the Home Depot of the future will resemble Kinkos, a service bureau.

I'll need to think about it more but it seems that this sort of thing makes disarmament schemes completely impractical in a society with privacy and freedom of speech. You could build your own guns. Volatile components for ammunition might be a problem but I don't doubt that this is something that would be solved fairly easily for low muzzle velocity ammunition.

Posted by TMLutas at July 28, 2003 02:17 PM