One day, 3D printing will be as easy (and as common) as printing a Word document is today…
3D printing has been much talked about as a future industrial revolution. Or rather, having the potential to reverse the industrial revolution. Instead of efficiency gains created through economies of scale – mass production of identical goods driving down the manufacturing cost, the new value will be in local production tailored to individual needs that can eliminate waste. An increasingly popular concept given the rising cost of raw materials, energy and transportation. Such an industrial shift will have major economic implications on a global scale and will likely cause significant disruption to many. But the economies of individuality also create some amazing new possibilities.
For example, as reported in The Times
At Imperial College, the professor of orthopaedic surgery Justin Cobb is using 3D printers to fabricate patient-specific surgical tools and implants. With smaller incisions, this can result in almost halving the time spent cutting the bone, not to mention better outcomes and lower costs. The surgeon scans your knee, generating a virtual image, from which instruments and guides are designed and printed so that the bone cuts you need are exactly matched to the tailor-made implant.
It’s still early days and the industry will go through a bumpy phase and calls for regulation as people begin to realise some of challenges that will arise, already demonstrated earlier this year by a project to 3D print a working gun.
But it is highly likely that a time will come when having a 3D printer at work and home is as common as a traditional ‘printing sheets of paper’ printer is today. As discussed in the short video below.
It’s easy to forget that back in the early 1990s, one of the benefits of using Windows PCs was the breadth of support for printer drivers compared to alternatives. That may sound a deathly dull subject now but at the time it was a critical requirement for computers to be effective in the workplace. The new focus is an old problem revisited – ensuring 3D printer compatibility within the operating system.
- There’s no cure to the health spending paradox – The Times, July 2013 (subscription required to access)
- Working gun made with 3D printer – BBC News, May 2013
- Meet your 3D Maker – Microsoft News Center, July 2013
Flickr image ‘Mini Maker Faire – Manchester 2012’ kindly shared by Les Pounder