Technology advances at such a breakneck pace it can be easy to lose sight of how far we’ve come in a short amount of time. Just 15 years ago mobile phones were chunky, clunky, and relatively novel. Now smartphones are ubiquitous and they allow you to carry the power of a computer with you in your pocket or purse.
Not too long ago a decent printer might run you just shy of a thousand dollars – more than that if you wanted to splurge on a color printer. Now? You can pick one up at a fraction of the cost.
If the past is any indication, the future will be here before you know it. And that future looks to be shaped significantly by 3D printing.
Haven’t heard of 3D printing? Get a first look at the next big thing in this article.
The Next Big Thing
The concept of three-dimensional printing sounds like something straight out of a sci-fi novel and it has the potential to revolutionize manufacturing.
Here’s how it works.
First you load up a blueprint of an item on your computer – let’s say a gear for your bicycle or a set of kitchen utensils. Then you hit the print button. Your 3D printer fires up and begins building the item one layer at a time through a process known as “additive manufacturing”.
Before too long the item is ready to go. With 3D printing you have the ability to effectively print on demand the items you need for day to day life.
Can’t remember where you left the wine opener? No problem. Just print up a new one.
Broke your favorite pair of glasses? Download your prescription and a blueprint for new frames from your optometrist and simply push “print”.
If you think this technology sounds like it could turn manufacturing completely upside-down you’re not alone. In a 2011 feature, The Economist wrote that 3D printing could have as “profound an impact on the world” as the coming of the factory did in the late 18th century.
Living in the Future
Three-dimensional printing has been around since the mid-1980’s as a way for businesses to rapidly make prototypes. And while it has been popular at the industrial level for years the price and limited functions of the technology have ensured that 3D printing remains relatively obscure among the general population.
That’s all about to change.
In October 2012 the world’s first mass-marketed 3D printer, the MakerBot Replicator 2, was released with a price tag of $2,200.
Sound expensive? Try this for perspective: In 1983 HP offered their first desktop printer…for the wallet busting price of $12,800.
Make no mistake: 3D printing is the next big thing.
We here at the site are incredibly excited about the future of 3D printing. This technology shows every sign of changing the game on a massive scale.
Check back often as we continue to report on the rapid advances being made in this exciting field!
If you do want some more information about 3D Printing and the revolution around it, I would highly recommend the book Makers: The New Industrial Revolution by Chris Anderson. Also check out Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing by Melba Kurman.