3D Printing: Envisioning the Future (part 1)

It was a year and a half ago when my friend Aaron began talking about 3D printing.  I distinctly remember being over at his house on a Saturday night and while we were gathered around his living room, he brought it up to me because since I work in Tech sales, he thought I’d know about it.  While he was wrong in that regard, my interest was certainly held.  To the Star Trek nerds out there this is the baby steps to Replicators that could make anything that was requested (later breaking it down for re-composition later)…and certainly the wave of the future.  But how to explain it and what it can do to the world in the next 10 years, is not as easy as it sounds.  From the micro transaction, to replacement parts for machinery, to even human dna…there really aren’t any limitations on how this can be used. In talking with my Sales Director, I got to share what I know on this topic, and we agreed that we as a team and we as a company need to be involved in 3D printing early on, to make sure our clients understand it, and what it can do for them.

So here I am…writing this short series of posts about 3D printing.  Funny how that works, isn’t it? 🙂

Today I’ll just briefly go over why 3D printing is about to explode across the landscape in a much bigger way.  Most importantly, this month is when a large quantity of patents surrounding what is called “laser sintering” (a process by which plastic powders are super-heated and molded by lasers) are set to expire…driving down the prices on machines made to do this.  We know this will happen because it already has with 3D printers that use Fused Deposition Modeling.  (extruding superheated material and layering it into a shape)  The FDM printers have plummeted in price and are even available purchase for under $3000.  Makerbot has exploded in this market and their printers do some pretty amazing work.

The irony is that these cheaper FDM printers are being produced in China…and as time goes by, and more and more versions of these come available…and the technology/capability grows, China’s in a bit of a pickle.  Why ship things to China to be manufactured, when they can be produced down the street at the same price without overseas shipping?  That’s the validity of all of this.  Busted piece of car?  Auto shop calls in an order to their printer, and your new part is formed and there tomorrow…or even made on site while you wait.

There’s a lot to digest on this topic…and we’re not going to get into the bioethics portion until hopefully part 3…but do the reading in the links above…and your homework is…

Yes I’m assigning homework, SHUT UP BILLY.  (didn’t i mention i trained to be a teacher...there’s a reason i’m not one) 🙂

Ahem…your homework is to do the reading in the links above…and tell me what you think 3D printing means to your company in the coming years.   Then let’s compare notes. 🙂

Have a great President’s Day Weekend.  I’ll be back in the office on Tuesday and part 2 should be ready to go on Wednesday. 🙂

Peace, my friends!

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One thought on “3D Printing: Envisioning the Future (part 1)

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