Experts are calling it the next great revolution, but what makes 3D printing so important, and how will it impact on our everyday lives? We’ve rounded up five of the most impressive changes the proliferation of 3D printing is likely to bring about.
Duration : 2 min to read
The widespread production of disposable goods designed for short term usage is already a major international problem. Vast branches of capitalism are fueled by the replacement of consumer items and the upgrading from older models. The discarded items – particularly of the technological kind – can have horrifying repercussions when left unattended. Think of leaking batteries and packaging in the oceans. Now consider the launch of the 3D printer and the items it will by definition bring into existence – the faulty products, the defect goods, and even items with minor dents or imperfections will be easily disposed of when a better model can be so easily and quickly produced in the home. The wasteful implications of the proliferation of 3D printing can’t be exaggerated and requires careful, imminent consideration.
The ideal of 3D printing is that the blueprint for any conceivable object will be freely available for everyone to download and use as a basis for producing that item. Whilst the possibilities can be exciting, the implications on crime and violence are concerning. In 2012, the US-based group Defense Distributed disclosed plans to design a working plastic gun that could be downloaded and reproduced by anybody with a 3D printer. The US Department of State ordered the instructions to be taken down. The debate still rages as to where the lines should be drawn in terms of legality, ownership, and use.
It’s not all doom and gloom – the specificity of 3D printing could streamline the availability of the parts that make complex machines, bringing you the blueprint for the exact part you need for the exact model of the exact car that you own. If the information exists somewhere in the world as to how to make something, it can be replicated on the other side of the planet.
Millions of companies worldwide rely on external business to generate their products. Analysts predict these relationships will become strained or be severed completely with the advent of 3D printing as it will largely remove the need to outsource manufacturing processes. This in turn is predicted to lead to widespread unemployment, as large teams of people will no longer be required for something that can be fabricated with the push of a button.
Even the most precious and intricate of objects are expected to be impacted by 3D printing – sometimes to our benefit. 3D printed organs are already being planned in use for surgical training, so that whilst learning about the interior of the body a surgeon could become familiar with each detail before ever coming close to a human heart. Earlier this year a printed replica of a two week old baby’s heart revealed holes in its wall, giving answers that then led to saving the child’s life. Organ failures and donations are likely to work in a similar way – becoming replicas of exactly what the patient needs.
It’s still very much up for debate whether 3D printing is an exciting new frontier or a worrying and detrimental development. Whilst the pros and cons seem endless, analysts are eager to point out that not everyone will have access to 3D printing in the future just as not everyone in the world currently owns a standard printer.