3D printing: Will it ever be available for all of us?
Lets start with a little bit of 3D printing history. In the late 80’s 3D printing wasn’t called 3D printing yet. It started off as a way of low cost prototyping (3dprintingindustry, 2015). In the late 90’s and 00’s new 3D printing techniques were developed but were still solely focussed on industrial applications. In the 00’s 3D printing techniques were changing. There were still high-end 3D printing solutions but cheap and low cost 3D printing solutions also originated. This change resulted eventually in the first commercially available 3D printer in 2009 (3dprintingindustry, 2015).
Currently 3D printing is used in many different industries. One of the most well known applications is printing of machinery parts in industrial facilities. Below you see a graph with the fields of application over time.
Next to this application within the business field, 3D printing is also available, for us, as customers. Start-ups such as 3D hubs connect consumers to 3D printers (3Dhubs, 2015). 3D printing is within our grasp with these new platforms and developments, but will we really 3D print the necklace we designed in the future? I think 3D printing is a great solution for the industry in terms of prototyping, spare parts and so on. But I really doubt whether we are really going to use it ourselves, in our own home. 3D printing is not particularly sustainable. If we keep on printing the stuff we want we will be left with a big amount of redundant 3D printed objects. Next to the fact that it is not very sustainable, it also deals with serious safety issues. Everyone who knows to handle a designing program could make a 3D print drawing and print it. How are we going to regulate unsafe printing and enforce this? Apart from the safety issue, we also face the issue of capital insensitivity. To be able to print the things we really want (personalized to a high extend), we need expensive printers that are currently not available for the consumer market. You can buy a cheap printer but it only allows you to print small objects. It is still an illusion that you can print your own designed couch or chairs at your own house.
3D printing offers us great possibilities in terms of designing, personalizing and acquiring the products that we want as consumers. However, I think due to regulation and capital insensitivity it will not become the second printer in your house. Do you think 3D printing will be available for all of us in the near future?
3Dhubs. (2015, 01 01). 3Dhubs.com. Accessed: 10 8, 2015, from 3Dhubs.com: https://www.3dhubs.com/how-to-hub
3dprintingindustry. (2015, 01 01). History of 3D printing: The free beginner’s guide. Accessed: 10 8, 2015, from 3Dprintingindustry: http://3dprintingindustry.com/3d-printing-basics-free-beginners-guide/history/
Harrop, J. (2014, 06 01). Applications of 3D printing 2014-2024: Forecasts, Markets, Players. Accessed: 10 8, 2015, from idtechex.com: http://www.idtechex.com/research/reports/applications-of-3d-printing-2014-2024-forecasts-markets-players-000385.asp