This is web journalism headlining at its worst: the breathless headline trumpeting link-bait-y news that is, it turns out when you read the article, 100% not true:

Cheap 3D printers fuel home-printed sex toy “phenomenon”

Yeah. Only, not. It turns out that home-grade 3D printers don’t fuel anything of the kind — not yet — because none of the materials available for home 3D printing are sex-toy safe. From the article:

Nardone…says the rapidly falling cost of 3D printers is driving fetishists to experiment with the technology. “When printers dropped to $2,000, I bought one,” he says, although he adds that “surface finish and materials” are the major drawbacks of current technology.

“The issue is that consumer grade 3D printers can’t print in body-safe materials yet,” agrees Chelsea Downs of New York Toy Collective. “People can design their own toys and share the digital files online, but you still need someone to be able to take the printed prototype and turn it into a toy in a body-safe texture and material.”

Even Dongiverse warns on its blog that home-printed items are not safe to use in the bedroom. “The prints are not water-tight,” it advises, adding: “it’s damn near impossible to clean them.” Instead, it recommends that printouts are used as moulds to cast toys in appropriate materials.

So. Home-printed sex toys are not (yet) a phenomenon. But it seems self-evident they will be, one day, and the article offers a nice roundup of some entrepreneurs who are trying to get situated in the space so that they’ll be there when it becomes a thing.

So, why am I blogging about this? Because, buried in the story I found the unsurprising (but disappointing) news that the 800-lb-gorilla of online sites for sharing 3D design files is hostile to the sharing of sex toy designs. If it’s true — and it’s possible to imagine reasons why an account by someone with business ambition in this space might not turn out to be — it’s rather a disappointment, like the Steve Jobs Memorial Walled Garden Of Pleasurelessness:

Nardone set up [his] site after his attempts to upload his designs to popular 3D filesharing site Thingiverse were rebuffed. “I had a conversation with their attorney,” Nardone says. “He said ‘we want to be open-source but we have to draw the line. You can’t post that stuff here’.”

Thingiverse, remember, purports to be

a community of people who create and share designs freely, so that all can benefit from them.

There’s nothing in their TOS specifically against sex toys, but they don’t allow the posting of anything “pornographic” or “obscene”, nor do they allow uploading of user content that is “vulgar”, “pornographic”, “sexually explicit”, “obscene”, or “harmful to minors”. I suspect many of my readers would agree with me that a CAD file for a dildo is none of those things, yet that constellation of adjectives makes it pretty clear, I think, that such a file would indeed probably be unwelcome. I always hate it when entrepreneurs in a cool and economically-important space turn out to be sex-negative or sex-cowardly, but surprised? Never.

If you’ve read this far, you probably don’t need an explanation of precisely why home 3D printing is going to be important with respect to sex toys. Indeed, you may already have an idea for a sex toy that you’d like to print yourself, because nobody else in the world makes just what you want in the precise dimensions that you want. For me, it all became clear when I saw online a toy for men called the Trailer Hitch:

stainless steel cock ring and anal plug

It’s a butt plug hooked to a cock ring, and it’s clear at a glance that, at least in theory, it’s more than the sum of its parts. If you’re a man and you put something up your butt, you’ve got to hold onto it if you want to move it, and you’ll want to move it if you’re after prostate stimulation. If you’re a man and you wear a cock ring (which can just feel good, or it can help maintain an unreliable erection) it can slide off your cock (if you wear it in front of the balls) or it can shove your balls forward with painful results (if you wear it behind the balls). So the concept of this toy is doubly brilliant; the anal plug hooks to the cock ring and holds it back against your body, while your normal fucking or wanking motion gives you a little bit of prostate stimulation.

But for it to work… just look at all the things that have to be sized properly! The ring has to be absolutely as small as it can be while still allowing you to put it on, the curved arm that attaches to the ring has to curve correctly and be the right length for your body size, the straight probe that goes into your butt has to be the proper length to reach your prostate, and then the ball on the end has to be a size large enough to do the stimulation job yet small enough you’re comfortable inserting it.

If you order one of these off the internet, you’ve got to pick (intelligently — but none of the things you need to measure are easy to measure with precision) from quite a lot of different options representing different combinations of these variables. You might get it wrong. Your expensive sex toy is non-returnable (for obvious reasons). If you’re rich and/or highly motivated, you might try again. How many people who get it wrong a second time are ever going to try a third time?

And yet, the idea seems good. We’re probably a long way from home printers that print in lovely solid stainless steel, but the Trailer Hitch would be fine in any sufficiently strong, smooth, non-porous plastic. With cheap enough feedstock, you could vary the design millimeter by millimeter, making iterative attempts until you had the perfect hitch for your trailer.

That’s the promise of home 3D sex toy printing. Infinite customization and personalization in perfect privacy. It’s not here yet. But it’s coming.

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