Few haven’t heard about 3D-printing. The buzzword was popularized around 2012 but the hype has since died out it seems. The technology however hasn’t, and is destined to change the world for ever.
From prosthetic limbs to airplane engines. 3D-printers are already put to good use around the world. The boom is yet to come, but when it does, boy are you going to see the world change. Take for example sneakers. Back in 2012, the infamous torrent site The Pirate Bay famously released a sneaker design, along with files allowing anyone with a 3D-printer to print TPB’s pirate ship. Media foreboded a world were goods are not stolen anymore, they are copied then printed at home. Fast forward to 2017, 3D-printers remain a hobbyist project for most. What you’ve missed however, is the fact that most sneakers are now 3D-printed instead of molded together. This allows Nike and Adidas and the like to both prototype and make designs that weren’t even possible before, and at speed!
3D-printing isn’t limited to what-part-goes-where-and-when during manufacturing. It’s an additive process, making it much simpler to be creative. Impossible designs like spheres inside of cubes and incredibly detailed objects are just the beginning. A few cases of functional 3D-printed guns exists. Doctors are trying to 3D-print functioning hearts, esophaguses and other organs. The 3D-modeled organs are exactly like their biological foregoers, just in plastic. Speaking of which, most people wrongly assume 3D-printing is limited to mono-chrome plastic models.
What’s truly great about how technology has advanced is how metal-3D-printers are getting cheaper and cheaper. By fusing together a metallic powder using high-powered lasers, industrial 3D-printers can recreate any shape in metal. In some remote airports around the world where aircraft parts are scarce, 3D-printers come to the rescue. Being able to print parts to repair aircraft on-demand is not only cheaper, but you don’t need to keep a stock of parts just in case, thus saving on storage space. This fact is what drives the future change of our world from bulk-manufacturing to on-demand.
Going back to the 3D-model of a sneaker on The Pirate Bay. Imagine you buy a pair of Nike Air Max online. Now, imagine you either go to your local 3D-printer shop instead of the post office, or even print them at home. It’s more than possible, it’s happening now!
The iPhone 8 will most likely feature a depth-perception sensor. Such features would not only make AR possible, but 3D-scanning of objects as well. We have already begun to see hand-held 3D-scanners on the market. Soon, every bloke can make a copy of whatever they wish for a fraction of the cost.
Every day, millions and millions of tons are transported on heavy container ships across the globe. The journey goes from factories to retailers, then finally reach the end-user. The impact on Global Warming, on ecosystems and marine life is without a doubt enormous. Not to mention the land needed for stocking goods, maintenance parts and assembly. Why not let a 3D-printer do that job, and erase millions and millions of CO2 emissions in a jiffy? 3D-printing is promising to revolutionize our capitalist societies, our healthcare as well as every major industry. When manufacturing can be made local and on the cheap, without the need for storage and middlemen, the power balance may shift. China has of course realized it sits in a rocky boat. Being dubbed the ‘factory of the world’, China is heavily investing in 3D-printing technologies. Best the rest of us did the same…
So, what are you guys thinking? Time to invest in a 3D-printer and go a course in CAD? Should you worry if you’re a factory worker? Probably so, but it’s definitely looking better for the future of the Earth.