Friday, June 7, 2013
Once reserved for only the most successful businesses and industrial applications, 3D printing is quickly becoming mainstream as more and more small-scale units enter the marketplace. Even just a few years ago, the concept of 3D printing for the home or small business was out of reach: while they certainly existed then, 3D printers could only be found in industries where a high demand for custom products existed. As this process becomes a part of our everyday lives, there are a variety of trends that we expect to see over the coming years. If you want to know about four of the biggest trends in 3D printing that will manifest over the next decade, then continue reading to find out what they are and how they could affect you.
While we have yet to see massive adoption of this technology due to current restraints in 3D printing, custom-made implants, limbs and devices are expected to become all the rage over the next decade as 3D printing expands into new materials and new scales of size. In isolated cases, these technologies are already being used to save lives and improve quality of life for individuals suffering from a variety of ailments, but the costs associated with these techniques still put them a bit out of reach. As technology improves variables such as cost and precision, however, 3D printed medical devices will become a mainstay in health care outcomes.
Print Shops and Kiosks
As the cost of 3D printing becomes both sustainable and profitable for even small businesses, we expect that 3D printing stations will begin popping up at malls and other major shopping areas over the next decade. Rather than heading to the store to buy a mass-produced products, consumers will be able to customize and purchase a variety of products from these kiosks, much like we would do with any other consumer product. The effects that this will have on imported goods will be vast: even the simplest of items will be easily customized, ordered and purchased all in one central location.
As more and more people move toward an economy where 3D printing is the norm, manufacturers and producers alike will find new markets emerging in the world of 3D blueprints. Much how the music industry moved from a physical model that sold CDs and tapes to one that allows for monthly subscriptions and individual purchases, manufacturers will find that it will be necessary to offer blueprints of their patented products that allow consumers to manufacture them from home or at a kiosk. There will no doubt be some initial reluctance to doing so from major brands, but the market will ultimately dictate that this must occur.
With small-scale manufacturing becoming the norm, other enhancements to this process will emerge to give a variety of products extra functionality and aesthetics. Once 3D printers are capable of measuring molecular-level printing, we will see a variety of applications emerge, including the printing of electronics, nanotechnology and unparalleled precision in quality. While the array of applications in which these forms of technology will be applicable are still somewhat vague, technology will ultimately permit for even the most mundane of products to be intuitively savvy.
This post was authored by Lisa Dubach; she works for a prominent printing company in Toronto. She likes to indulge in reading during her time off from work.