3D printing has been in the news a lot lately and the implications are huge. How huge? Big Think speculates it may spark a revolution in home manufacturing.
Here’s a quick primer: these aren’t printers that create 3D images, these are devices that use a laser to solidify liquid resins layer by layer to build up full scale products. There are no casts, no molds, just computer designs realized quickly and cheaply. And companies like Shapeways can already create your personally designed products and sell them to and for you.
And the implications? Says Andrew Dermont at Gizmaz:
It may seem a far-fetched to predict that thousands of entrepreneurs across America will install professional-grade rapid prototyping machines in their garages and begin manufacturing custom-made products. But if the costs of rapid prototyping technology continue to decline, it’s hard to see why future generations will have to go to the store to buy anything made of solid plastic or metal. Why buy cutlery and plastic cups if you could just download the design and make it yourself? Plastic water bottles, shower curtains, simple toys, Tupperware, and all types of kitsch. The list goes on.
As a speculative fiction author, I’ll go a step further in the futuristic implications. I predict home fabricators will become as common as microwave ovens, and that most products we buy will not be shipped, but will be fabricated at home and costs will continually be driven downward until most if not all products and designs are free.
Let me explain why. If designs are digital, why go to the expense of production, shipping, and packaging? Just as books, movies, and music have gone digital and the costs have dropped, why shouldn’t other products in a digital medium do likewise? And right now business models are in the midst of a revolution where more and more digital content is free and money is made through ancillary services. This will be no different.
So, what will society look like if most consumer products can be fabricated quickly and cheaply at home? What do you think?