As one of the hot topics of this century, 3D printing technologies offer us more and more exciting projects everyday. Today, it is way beyond translating a digital drawing into a physical model. It is used in many industries and helps –or will help- many people on different fields. There are lots of things 3D printers can make today; such as, body parts, clothing, guns, cars, meat, your own bust, etc
However, not everything is bright and shiny about 3D printing. There are many discussions about the possible side effects of this technology and I am not talking about just the ethics of bioprinting or guns. What worries me is this constant effort to bring 3D printing into out everyday lives. In today’s world of abundance, do we really need everyone printing their own “cool” stuff, just because they can?
I admit. It is pretty exciting to be able to hold a product that you once created virtually, especially for the first time! But then… you get a hang of it. You understand that it is just a faster and more accurate method of making a model and it is not a manufacturing method… yet.
Even though we are still in the beginning of the 3D printing era, there are already businesses revolving around 3D printing technologies.
The biggest one is Shapeways, an online business that helps its users turn computer models into 3-D–printed objects for sale to the masses. It is quite simple: you upload your digital model, choose a material, pay and order, get it delivered. You can also put it on sale, which means whoever likes your drawing can order it through Shapeways and you can make money off of it. That is it! Of course, if you know how to use a 3D modeling program, which is something not everyone does.
There is also this rumor that Staples will start offering 3D printing service in their stores. Just like regular printing, you will be able to give them a file on your flash drive, and get an 3D printed version of that file in return. I don’t know when this project is coming to life, but it is a proof that 3D Printing is going to become more accessible to everyone.
What about Makerbot? 3D Printers for almost the same price of a smart phone? Are we all going to have a 3D printer at home soon and printing “cool” but not so useful objects? It is great that they are making these machines for table top use, but are we really going to need to use 3D printers that often?
All I am saying is that, 3D printers make my job as a designer much easier, when it comes to prototyping. They can bring very intricate shapes to life and they can make it much faster and better that I can do. However I am not so sure about the concept of everyone being able to print everything comes to their mind and not think about the after life.