By every indication, 3D printing technology is poised to radically transform the way we live and work and may as well lead to an altogether new industrial revolution. Before you dismiss this as just another hyped up misconception, take time to look at the following 10 transformative impacts of 3D printing which are either currently underway or which will be soon operational. All of them are proving to be game changers in the world of work, the consumer market and global economy.
Advent of 3D Printing Technology – How will it change our lives?
A Better Deal for the Environment
Traditional manufacturing approaches are not only wasteful but also wreak irreversible damage on the environment at the grandest scale. 3D printing technology is poised to transform the industry by reducing the amount of materials needed to manufacture many products, ensuring more durable products (broken parts can be replaced easily), consumer products can be produced near the markets cutting down on costs of transporting both raw materials and finished products and it is also possible to envisage a situation where there is much fewer unsold products (production can be more evenly matched with demand) which only end up in landfills.
The scenarios envisaged above may sound as if 3D printers are a godsend for a world teetering on the precipice of an environmental catastrophe but it is important to be cautious. To be honest, 3D printers themselves are not 100% efficient and can create environmental concerns of their own. If any proof was needed, a normal inkjet printer is known to waste anywhere from 40% to 45% of its ink. Moreover, if the printers are left switched on without use they will consume large amounts of electricity. Even more significantly, every indication is that components and parts will wear out fast and unless you have a well stocked printer spare parts provider close at hand, this may lead to manifold expenses.
Many artists have latched upon the new 3D printing technology to find a new dimension to their artistic expression. In fact museums are also using the technology to reproduce rare artworks and therefore make them even more accessible to the general public.
As we speak, there is a crowdfunding campaign underway seeking to raise enough funds to put a 3D printer in every school in the United States. The possibilities are limitless when you begin to consider the way such technology could transform the way children are taught important aspects especially in science and mathematics.
Now that we have established a permanent presence in space, the challenge of manufacturing basic tools and equipment here on earth and transporting them to space is proving intractably expensive. NASA is already working on a project to design a 3D printer which would work in zero-gravity and potentially save them millions of dollars if it delivers on its early promise.
A Whole New Approach to Mass Production
3D printing is already transforming the way consumer products are produced and distributed. The next step in the process is to gear up for mass production of 3D printed products. This would cut the massive costs associated with traditional mass production of goods in such industries as food processing, the military, automotive industry, electronics and toys.
There are very promising indications that soon 3D printers will be capable of making new living tissue in much the same way an inkjet printer works. This would transform the way medicine is practiced and may potentially solve the crisis caused by dearth of donor organs for transplants.
Just as the microcomputer transformed every aspect of our lives including how we interact at home, the 3D printer is poised to become an irreplaceable piece of equipment in the home. Just think about it: with the prices of 3D printers plummeting almost by the month, soon it will be possible to have a machine capable of creating custom jewellery, spewing out custom matched parts for home tools and even enabling you to design and print out fun toys for the young ones.
Today there are huge swathes of the global consumer market which are cut off from traditional supply chains even when it comes to pretty basic consumer goods. With 3D printing enabling the production of parts and finished products right where they are needed and consumed, this disconnect is set to get an irreversible blow.
A Much Better Deal for the Global Economy
A recent study carried out by the McKinsey Global Institute indicated that 3D printing was finely poised to cause a major disruption to the global economy as soon as 2025. For one, the cost of entry in the market will be drastically slashed down making the world economy more competitive, efficient and guaranteeing more customer centered design of goods and products.
Not all the implications of the world adopting 3D printing technology are positive. There is real concern by leading companies that they stand to lose billions of dollars invested in creating innovative designs which can now be copied, reverse engineered and changed without paying of royalties. Governments and regulators will have to rethink how the laws regulating intellectual property are worded so that the rights of corporations and original designers are safeguarded without infringing on entrepreneurs seeking to create even more effective versions of existing products.