How I thought it up
Saw a post on another blog on the Makerbot replicator. It was pointed out that the goal of the Makerbot people is to make a household machine, for everyone. This reminded me of how I came up with the fabbersmith idea to begin with.
There are two reasons for this, the first is expense–the replicator is 1700 or so dollars. How often would a person use it? How often would they have to use it to pay for it in a reasonable amount of time? It’s possible for some people, even using it once a week wouldn’t pay for it, but how many people are going to print something once a week? If you want metal or electronics, those will be more machines, and more expensive.
Sure, print out cups. How often do you do that? How many cups do you need? The big thing is that most people aren’t going to use it enough to justify spending the money on it. Perhaps if it was something like $500, but even then, why bother? Rather than put that money out, spend it on something else, and pay a small fee to someone in town who has one and can print whatever it is for you. This gets more complicated when you add making something like a toy, with different materials, and perhaps even electronics.
The second thing is design. Simple mechanical designs may be easy for a normal person, but most won’t have the aptidude to make it, let alone the time. The fabbersmith specializes in these things, and lets someone put their effort into their own specialty.
Even if you can pull an image out of a person’s brain directly, not everyone is going to be interesting, and not everyone would be good at thinking things up. Would you rather an action movie pulled out of Stephen Hawking’s brain, or Larry Correia’s? The artistic touch to make things cool or beautiful, and the modeling skills to make them real are also the realm of the fabbersmith(though maybe a contractor–I know I’d not be doing much sculpting).
Even with repositories like www.thingiverse.com there will be a lot of demand for unique items that will either be designed from scratch, or modded from an existing model. And to make them beautiful takes more.
The point of the fabbersmith is the specialization of labor that makes this economical. Not everyone is going to have the time, energy, and money to put into getting good with a printer. Their time is better spent in their specialty, leaving the fabbersmiths(they’ll have their own specializations) to theirs. Unfortunately, not everyone is going to have the skills and creativity to make things cool or beautiful like they should be. So, rather than do it themselves, they’ll go to someone who can, the fabbersmith.