3D printers are a technology that is maturing incredibly quickly, and many tech analysts believe the time is almost upon us when they will be an affordable piece of technology for home use.
As new technologies make their way into the hands of the average consumer, there are often broader economic implications, with some technologies killing off entire industries or professions. Mainstream internet all but killed the travel agency. Digital cameras meant you no longer need those shops that develop photos (what did we even call those?). And digital media did away with video rental stores. Because a 3D printer in every home would allow us all to manufacture all kinds of items for ourselves, this could have even bigger implications than all of these. Here are three possibilities:
Photo by jepoirrier
DIY Gets Even Bigger
In recent years there has been a huge trend towards people making their own stuff. Whether it is publishing your own book, designing and making your own clothes and jewelry, or crafting your own furniture, it is now fashionable and normal to DIY things. Not only can you make stuff for yourself to save money or have something unique, but you can also easily sell it via online marketplaces. With 3D printers, people would be able to easily produce their own designs in all kinds of other things, using materials like plastics which are otherwise hard to work with in the average home workshop.
The Toy Industry Could Suffer
Being able to make your own plastic pieces, even in quite complicated designs, will mean it will be possible to make conventional toys like Lego style bricks, dolls and action figures yourself at home, and of course to your own custom designs. Parents and fans of toys will love this, because they will be able to add a personal touch. What will this mean for toy giants who specialize in mass producing these types of items?
Parts and Tools
When you need a replacement part for something at the moment, you can have to pay over the odds and wait a long time to get it, because your only option is the manufacturer of the thing the part is for. A lot of the time these parts are simply pieces of plastic made to precise specifications. It wouldn’t take much for engineering enthusiasts to figure these out and put them on the web, ready for 3D printer users to use to create parts instantly for themselves. Equally, if you need a tool, a kitchen utensil, or any simple plastic item you don’t have (and this really could be anything from a comb to a colander), you’d no longer need to go and buy it, meaning industries around making, marketing and selling these would lose out. Even copying a patented ‘as seen on TV’ type gadget at home for your own use would be easy to do, so people getting rich off of ‘revolutionary gadgets’ may be a thing of the past!
Of course, a lot of this would be dependent on how expensive the materials and maintenance for your 3D printer was. However, if the cost of using one became similar to that of buying things like paper, toner and HP maintenance kits for your 2D printer now, a whole range of industries may have to up their game to survive!