In the interest of avoiding a TL;DR situation, here's the video first and explanation afterward. Basically, I'm just showing you a simple model in Fusion 360. I get excited about things and explain them to the n-th degree though, so if you're up for it, read on.
Here's why I'm spending nights watching YouTube videos teaching myself how to model. Spoiler alert... it's not just so I can create project enclosures.
It recently hit me how incredible important 3D modeling skills already are and are going to be in the future - the very near future.
The trigger - the thing that pushed me over the edge and caused me to realize the importance of this skill - is the hope I see in building things using the basic 3D printing paradigm. The same paradigm, but dramatically more materials and dramatically larger sizes.
Imagine this. Imagine a ship yard that has a giant frame over its dry dock. The frame is 600' long!
The facility essentially has a hopper for raw steel, a furnace to melt it, and then a print head capable of delivering this liquefied steel to whatever target it's set to.
And then, the operator goes to File | Print and the whole thing is set into motion. The car moves back and forth via screw gears, slowly climbs up, and spits out tiny drops of molten steel all along the way. The molten steel quickly hardens and forms a solid bond with the steel next to it.
Factory workers and engineers kick back in their desk and monitor the process, make improvements on v2 as they are implied, and otherwise leave well alone.
Three months later the hull of a shiny, new ship is ready to have fixtures and furnishings installed and eventually ready to launch.
The ship - being printed in one piece - is stronger than assemblies.
The element of human error has been eliminated.
The production variables have been reduced leaving whether or not to print 1 ship or 10 a simple decision of time, cost, and supply.
When we can relegate the production process - I mean taking the design you've made and turning it into something real - to a machine, it leaves us with the important part... the design.
If I 3D print something, assemble it, and it breaks, I tweak the design and print it again. If it doesn't, then I upload it to Thingiverse and let the rest of the world make them too.
If the ship doesn't stand up to its static testing, then the steel is melted down, the hull design is improved, and the printing operation begins anew.
I'm quite sure that the technology behind the machine itself will be improved. Perhaps 3 months (an only slightly educated guess on my part) will be reduced to 1 week, and the resolution will improve. It's going to happen. You know it's going to happen, and just like the same photograph you took 20 years ago now prints much crisper thanks to improvements in photo production devices (aka printers), the benefits of such improvements will result in massive, cross cutting improvements to vast quantities of products.
It's all very exciting.
I am asking myself where I fit in the process. It's hard not to be a specialist in today's world. I love the code. I love telling machines how to do things. But building the machine itself is fun too.
It's fun pretty much the same reasons, in my opinion. It's fun because it's fundamentally fulfilling to take chaos and make order. I don't just write code... I organize digital bits. I don't just design and print 3D things... I organize raw matter like scrap wood and plastic into something with meaning and purpose.
That's super cool.
Have fun designing.