This article looks ahead at how 3D printing could change the world in the next few decades.
3D printing has already changed the way we look at manufacturing and begun to democratise it in a truly amazing way. These days anyone can create a design that can be turned into a real, physical object and indeed they often do. If you want to make your own pen holder, your own plastic toy, your own necklace or anything else, 3D printing offers you a way and even enables you to start sharing and selling your designs if you so wish.
3D printers are now also starting to make their way slowly into the home, with commercial models gradually being picked up by early adopters and used in all kinds of inventive ways. But the possibilities of 3D printing have still only really just been touched upon and the future is something much more amazing. Read on to see how 3D printers might change everything in future.
The Napster of Physical Products?
The first change we are likely to see, is more and more people starting to own 3D printers and more and more 3D models being readily available to download as a result. Now when you need a new plate you’ll simply buy some ceramic, choose the design you like and then hit ‘print’. Wait a while, and then you’ll have your brand new set right there in the living room to enjoy. And if you break it, you can just print off a new copy. Break a set that you bought the old fashioned way? Blue tack it back together, scan it in with a 3D printer, and then just print it out…
Of course this will also make things much cheaper, as you no longer need to pay for manufacturing, delivery or the wages of the many workers on the supply chain. Now you’ll simply have to pay for the china and the file if you want a great design, then you’ll need to pay for the 3D model – which is how companies will then need to make their money.
But then if it’s possible to download files for the china and the cutlery you want, there will always be people who try to download and share those files for free. A ‘Napster’ for physical items is likely to emerge, changing that industry just the same way that the music industry has been forced to change.
The Bright Future
But the impact of 3D printing is going to be much greater in the future than just ‘cheap and free stuff’. There are many more amazing implications that could genuinely lead to the advancement of humankind. There are plans for future satellites carrying complex 3D printers for instance that will eventually be able to create and launch new satellites and telescopes on the fly – meaning we can launch many more into space than ever before without spending millions to get them into space. 3D printed organs and limbs are already being made, and there may even be application for housing…
The future is bright, the future is 3D printed!