Are 3D printers the future?
As revolutionary print technology takes the world by storm, we ask: what will change?
The ability to turn something digital into a solid, tangible object has long been a sci-fi dream. Despite being young technology, 3D printing is already moving in leaps and bounds and is already benefitting business and consumers alike.
So where could 3D printers actually take us? A lot depends on their availability, and how much they work their way into the average household.
Online shopping would inevitably change forever. Depending on what someone would need to order, and as long as they had the raw materials, they could produce their desired object straight away via the 3D printer. No more running around the shops looking for a part that doesn’t seem to exist anymore, no more waiting impatiently for your order to arrive. Exactly the item you want, ready almost instantly after purchase.
3D printing will also enable its users to much more easily customise their products. With the ability to create custom objects from specific designs, and the required skills, anyone could use their own personal 3D printer to create the things that they need. Be it for DIY, a part for the car, a replacement for a broken toy… more or less anything.
This instant availability would inevitably have huge repercussions for the business world, not least of which are issues relating to intellectual property, copyright and trademark. Huge manufacturing giants may have to re-strategise if many of the products they deliver to the world can instead be instantly produced by the people who need them, without having to worry about shipping costs and waiting times.
Shipping and distribution companies in particular may be hit, if more people opt for printing instead of traditional ‘purchase’ models, but there are massive potential opportunities available to those who look for them?
As prices drop and 3D printers become more commonplace, schools are already beginning to include them in their curriculum, recognising the potential future importance of these skills in fields such as engineering, art and science.
3D printing will change existing business models – there can be little doubt of that, given its potential. It could change how all sectors, businesses and organisations operate –hospitals and the military are already looking closely at the potential of this disruptive technology.
And with the potential of 3D printing set to increase as its technologies and abilities evolve, those who embrace this opportunity should find themselves well placed to take maximum advantage of the inevitable impact on the office technology and imaging channels in particular.