Will 3D printing really change the world?
“Just like the Industrial Revolution, the assembly line, the advent of the internet and the Social Media phenomenon, 3D Printing will be a game changer” – Forbes: Will 3D Printing Change The World? (2012 March)
Since the impact is impossible to predict, let me just give you the facts about where the technology stands today.
3D Printing technologies have been around for more than 20 year. However, technology is slowly becoming affordable.
It is an additive manufacturing processes of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file, where an object is created by laying down successive layers of material. This is opposite to traditional machining process where the object is formed by removing material.
Types of Technology
- Fused deposition modeling which uses spool of plastic or metal wire
- Inkjet printing using layer of resin and binder
- Selective laser sintering using powdered metal, plastic, ceramic, or glass
- Digital light processing using liquid polymer
For more detail see this
What is it used for?
- Models of buildings for architects
- Full Color Models of drug molecules
- Fashion accessories, exotic ornaments
- Online service to allow consumers to design their own personalized and customized 3D object
- Models of mountains and other topographic 3D maps
- Models of virtual characters
- Custom and hard-to-find parts
- Print jawbones, prosthetics, replacement hips and high quality artificial limb
Can you get objects printed online?
Here is a much larger list.
What does the future hold?
One thing is very clear – at this stage we have no clue what the impact of this technology will be. So, your opinion is as good as mine or the experts:
Want more reviews – see this
Design of object and IP
3D printing requires a 3D computer model. These models are not easy to create.
- The question is who will create them?
- More important, how will you protect the IP?
Here is a detailed discussion on this topic.
View using Consumerization of IT (CoIT) lens
Suppose that 3D printers become cheap enough so that people start buying them like they buy any other gadget – what happens then?
Does it not become an opportunity to advertise your products?
Just allow customers to download design which has your branding on it.
It would become another mad rush like creating iPhone application or being present in Facebook!
That is Consumerization of IT.
Who Makes These Printers?
- 3D Systems
- Desktop Factory (acquired by 3D Systems in Aug 2009)
- Z Corp (acquired by 3D Systems in Jan 2012)
There are many more – see this list.