3D printed cube illustration

3D Printing and the End of the Industrial Age

3D printing, or additive manufacturing, has been in the news more and more lately, and for good reason. It’s allowing people to build amazing things, such as a 3D replica of a live fetus, or a robotic exoskeleton. These are fantastic uses for this breakthrough technology.

If this is something you are extremely excited about, it’s possible to buy one right now. 3D printers are relatively small and becoming more affordable every day, so I don’t think it’s not too much of a stretch to say that there may be a 3D printer in every household in the not-so-distant future. Here are a few changes I think will come with this device as it becomes more common.

  1. Materials can and will be purchased in bulk. Rather than buying plates, cups, decorations, brackets, etc, we will be capable of buying materials like plastic in bulk the same way we buy paper and ink for printing. By always having these raw materials available, we are only limited by the number of 3D models available online. If you know how to use a 3D modeling program, you may not be limited at all.
  2. Mass production of small items will be much less common, if not entirely unnecessary. Instead of producing a million copies of a product and hoping they’ll sell, household 3D printers allow for an on-demand system. As consumers, we will no longer have to go to the store and hope they have a particular item we want in stock. We can browse online and print it ourselves, and even design it ourselves with the proper training.
  3. 3D printer-friendly digital models will become a big market. As mentioned above, a large online market will form around printable 3D models. There will be many open source models available, many of them meeting the basic needs of individuals, such as a full dining set.
  4. It will be much easier to be a stop-motion hobbyist. This one’s not for everyone, but 3D printers will most likely bring about a big wave of aspiring animators. What level of animation can be achieved with 3D printers? Watch Coraline and you’ll see.
  5. Recycling materials within the household will become more common. Getting sick of your old decorations? Why not stick them back into your 3D printer and create something new? Not only that, but if you absolutely need a plate for a guest, you can stick anything you no longer need of that particular material in it, and voilà!

In the end, I believe the greatest change this technology will bring is an end to most labor-intensive factory jobs. While the potential is great, there are many issues that will need to be covered, such as the creation of weaponry. What do you think could be a potential use or misuse of 3D printing?