The future of 3-D printing

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I’m really intrigued by 3-D printing. It seems like such a cool and futuristic type of technology. I can imagine myself living in the future and having this awesome 3-D printer in my space. I see myself typing something up on a tablet or smartwatch (or some other futuristic device), and telling my 3-D printer to print… something. This is where my imagination fails me: I don’t know what the heck we’re going to use 3-D printers for. I get that they’re the wave of the future, but why? Why are we all so convinced that 3-D printers will be a big deal in the future? What will we actually use them for?

Experts, what can you tell me about the future of 3-D printing?

3-D printing is certainly an exciting technology. But you’re right to note that it doesn’t have a clear consumer use right now–so what, if anything, will everyday Americans use this technology for in the future?

Let’s start by examining how we use 3-D printers right now. For the most part, we don’t find 3-D printers in American households. The technology is currently put to use mostly in the business world. Businesses might own their own 3-D printers or use an outsourced 3-D printing service to produce models and prototypes. Sometimes these items are functional, but often they are representations used for demonstrations and tests. What makes 3-D printing so useful in the business world is that creating these prototypes is so easy and fast with 3-D printing. A computer model and a 3-D printer are all a company needs to quickly produce an accurate and precise physical model. For now, 3-D printing is mostly for businesses.

But this doesn’t mean that 3-D printers will be limited to the business world forever. Indeed, as the technology is further perfected and prices begin to come down, many experts believe that we will see 3-D printers in average American homes. But what will they be useful for?

Hobbyists and DIYers will have no trouble finding uses for 3-D printers. Customized objects to be used in larger projects, including construction and technology-related projects, would be easy to create with 3-D printers. In fact, some hobbyists are already using 3-D printers in this way.

And experts suspect that even the less handy among us might find a use for 3-D printers. Take, for instance, any small part of a product that might break. A company could easily replace pieces of a product by allowing consumers to simply print a replacement. No more waiting for shipping to get a replacement for whatever piece broke off of your TV remote or video game controller: just print a new one!

Of course, there’s a good chance that there are other applications for 3-D printing technology that we have yet to discover. That’s not a failure of imagination–that’s just a reminder that human ingenuity is hard to predict!

 

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” — George S. Patton

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