3D printing is perhaps the most important technology of the 21st century (even though it was created in the 80’s).
While it’s still a young technology that still needs a lot more improvement, the benefits that it poses and the implications that it will have on the world are vast.
Therefore, in order to help you realize the potential of 3D printing, I’ve put together 12 things that you should know about 3D printing.
*Note: I will continuously add to this list until it reaches 101 things you should know about 3D printing. So, if you want to contribute to this list, please post what you think everyone should know about 3D printing in the comment section.
1. 3D Printing IS the Next Industrial Revolution
There’s so many reasons why 3D printing is going to change the way the world works… From completely reworking how manufacturers produce goods, to enabling individuals to jump into production on their own, to incredible use in health and medicine, 3D printing will usher in a new era.
2. If You Missed Out on the Computer Boom of the 80’s and 90’s, 3D Printing is Your Next Chance to Strike it Rich
If you’re a business-minded person, you need to start looking into 3D printing and carve yourself out a little piece of the pie. With such far-reaching potential, there will be tons of money to be made in the 3D printing industry. And, I’m not just talking about product creation… There’s huge potential in investing, solution providing, affiliate sales, maintenance of machines, repair work, etc.
3. If You Can Imagine it, You Can Print It
There’s really nothing you can’t create with a 3D printer. The only limitation is the physical limitations of the particular machine you’re using. As 3D printing technology advances even the most complex products will be a breeze for a 3D printer.
4. 3D Printing is Better for the Environment
According to tests ran by Joshua Pearce of Michigan Technological University, making items on a 3D printer used 41%-64% less energy than if those same items were made in a factory (outside of the US) and shipped to the US.
Not only are shipping costs cut down, but by using 3D printing, manufacturers and individuals can significantly cut down on the amount of raw material they use to create their products. And, obviously, by cutting down on the material we use to manufacturer goods, we can significantly cut down on CO2 emissions.
5. 3D Printing is the Ultimate Tool to Usher in An Era of Customization
In this day and age if you want something tailored to your own specific needs you have to pay a premium. It makes sense, too.
In order to be successful, manufacturers must attempt to find the most efficient and cost-effective way to produce their products.
Unfortunately, this leads manufacturers to design a few different products and then mass produce them. If every product they produced was different in some way, they would waste a lot of money, because they would need more equipment, they would have to hire more labor, and they would have to use more and different material.
3D printing solves this problem, because instead of mass-producing the same product with minor variations, a 3D printer can create products on demand without having to change the entire manufacturing process.
6. Tired of Trying to Make Your Small Business Competitive Against the Big Dogs? No Worries… 3D Printing Will Level the Playing Field
I grew up in a small town. There was no Walmart or Target and there was no Lowes or Home Depot. Basically, we lacked any kind of store that carried huge inventories of products. And, if we needed any kind of specialty item we either had to order it from a local supplier and wait to get it, or drive to one of the bigger nearby cities to get it.
Obviously this kind of thing is a huge inconvenience for consumers… but it’s also detrimental to local businesses.
3D printing can solve this problem as well.
Imagine that you lived in a small town 30 minutes to an hour away from a bigger city. And, then imagine that a specialty part on your car or truck broke or malfunctioned and you needed to replace it.
Now imagine that the local hardware/automotive store had a 3D printer, could download the blueprint for the part you needed, and have your part printed out within a few hours. Think of the wide impact a scenario like that could have…
First, it would save you, the consumer, a lot of time because you wouldn’t have to drive out of town to get it, or you wouldn’t have to wait for it to be delivered to your local automotive store. It would also save you money, because you wouldn’t have to fill up your gas tank to drive out of town, and you wouldn’t have to pay a premium to get the specialty part shipped in.
Secondly, the local business benefits because they don’t lose your business and it allows them to compete with the big-named stores who can carry large inventories.
These two factors will help smaller communities grow, will rebalance the populations of bigger cities (because less people will leave small towns to move to bigger cities in order to find more opportunities), and will even the playing field between big corporations and small businesses. And, obviously, the more lucrative it is for people to start small businesses, the more solutions and options there will be, and the better the economy we will have.
7. Don’t Wait! 3D Printing is Taking Off!
As pointed to numerous times in these 101 things you should know about 3D printing, there are a number of areas of manufacturing where 3D printing is already implemented and heavily used.
And, with the widespread intrigue and the general interest in the technology, 3D printing is quickly becoming the most-watched upcoming technology. Also-and as mentioned a little later in this post-key patents are expiring in 2014 that will make 3D printing more affordable and that will significantly improve upon the quality of finished printed products.
8. Educators Arm Yourselves… 3D Printing Will Significantly Improve the Learning Experience
3D printing will be a real force for educators and it will have a significant impact on the way students learn. For starters, 3D printing will give teachers and educators the opportunity to print out models relevant to their course material on demand. That, in itself, will be a great tool for teachers to use.
Imagine that you’re an elementary school teacher doing a segment on dinosaurs. How cool would it be to be able to print life-size claws, teeth, and eyeballs of a Tyrannosaurus rex? Watching videos and seeing pictures is a great way for children to wrap their head around things. Touching, feeling, and inspecting a 3D model of something takes the learning experience to a whole new level.
And, while 3D models have always been available in the classroom, 3D printing will make them a lot easier to come by and will allow for more diverse models to be created.
Even this example is just a scratch on the surface of what 3D printing can bring to the education realm. With 3D printers at our educators fingertips, imagine the kind of creativity they’ll be able to pull out of their students. Imagine what our youth will be able to do with the ability to recreate any item imaginable…
No classroom lesson will ever be the same…
9. 3D Printing is Being Used to Produce Human Body Parts
“Umm… Excuse me… I lost my kidney… Can you point me to the nearest 3D print shop?”
Kidneys, hands, legs, lungs, noses… 3D printing is already being used to replace animal and human body parts. Can you imagine the possibilities when the technology advances? Everything will be easily replaceable… Even your body parts.
10. Prototyping is Quicker, More Efficient, and Much More Cost Effective Thanks to 3D Printing
Currently, 3D printing is most used for prototyping. For instance, Chevrolet recently used 3D printing in order to help them improve their Malibu model.
Ford also uses 3D printing to help them design and create prototypes for various parts in their vehicles, including cylinder heads, brake rotors, shift knobs, etc.
The Aerospace industry is another big player in 3D printing and NASA uses the technology to create test parts as well.
11. 3D Printing Keeps Getting More and More Affordable
According to a Gartner report on the state and future of 3D printing, the technology and advisory company predicted that enterprise-class 3D printers will costs less than $2,000 in 2016.
As the technology continues to advance and more and more improvements are made to 3D printing, you can expect that price to continue dropping. And, if the producers of 3D printing can make easy-to-use interfaces that the average person can work with, then it’s not crazy to expect a 3D printer in every home within the next ten years.
12. Key 3D Printing Patents are Expiring in 2014… And That Means the Industry Will Explode
According to a post on Quartz.com, there are some key patents that cover 3D laser sintering that are set to expire in 2014.
Why is laser sintering important? Well, there’s two reasons…
First, laser sintering is the lowest-cost 3D printing technology. And, secondly, laser sintering can produce products with higher resolutions and, therefore, can print finished products.
So, while there is definitely capable 3D printing technology out there, the best and most affordable technology is coming in 2014. And, that, predicts Quartz.com, will lead to an explosion in the 3D printing market.