Imagine a world where 3D printing is as easy as downloading a song on iTunes. After the overshadowing dominance of 3D printers at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) earlier this month in Las Vegas, 2014 could be the year that 3D printing goes mainstream.
Despite still being in its infancy, 3D printing has the potential to revolutionize manufacturing. It can cease the need for centralised factory production through more footloose on-demand and on-site printing of components. Furthermore, it has the ability to change the way time pressured consumers are able to get their hands on a range of objects and products. Instead of going to a store, consumers will be able to choose from a wide range of design templates available online. The technology feeds the increasing desire for individualisation and the personalisation of things, taking mass customization to an entirely new level.
3D printing creates objects by layering one layer of material above another. Whilst the largest barrier to mainstream adoption remains price, more compact 3D printers are being introduced at an appealing entry price of £300 (rising to £800) and can be used to print smaller objects at home. For larger objects, it may soon be possible to print designs at publicly available 3D print shops.
Whilst most templates can be accessed via open-source software sites – i.e. freely available to the public –, one manufacturer, MakerBot, wants to create its own platform, making it simpler and more convenient for its customers to use. Customers will be able to choose from a wide range of objects from the Thingiverse – MakerBot’s iTunes for objects – where templates can be bought for as little as 99 cents and printed directly at home. With its new digital store and user friendly features, MakerBot is trying to position itself as the Apple of 3D printing, following its successful iTunes and iPod combination.
Here at Trajectory we are excited to see how 3D printing will manifest itself in 2014.