3D printing is shaking up how people engage in daily tasks at work, at school, and even at home. Recognizing the powerful potential of this innovative technology, many businesses are also beginning to leverage it for commercial use.
The fashion industry, for example, is using 3D printing to launch clothing collections based on the latest trends. The automotive industry is also tapping the technology to solve technical challenges. And healthcare organizations are using it to make lifesaving breakthroughs.
As 3D printing technology matures, it will be used in countless ways yet to be imagined. Here are some examples of how 3D printing is affecting manufacturing today.
1. Product design and development
Because 3D printing can minimize design constraints, developers can create products that are built to last without needing to first work through the problems of a physical prototype. Companies will be able to produce products quickly and easily.
Steve Swaddle, technology manager at Black & Decker, says, “It is the ability to design something in the morning and have a physical representation of the concept in your hand in the afternoon that is a priceless step forward in product design.”
2. Customization for a segment of one
Businesses can use 3D printing to easily customize products, such as a new concept of business cards, according to individual customer preferences. With product design limited only by the human imagination, many industries will be poised to undergo dramatic transformation.
However, such a shift also brings cost implications. Products will likely cost more, as 3D printers are expensive—many are priced between $10,000 and $20,0000, with some specialized models up to $50,000 or more. Over time, these prices will naturally decrease, but for now, consumers will pay a price for customization.
Another concern is copyright issues. Users of 3D printers can easily copy ideas based on copyright-protected product designs, and manufacturers and designers may call the ethical use of 3D printing into question as property right and infringements occur.
Major digital breakthroughs and innovations rarely go unnoticed, and 3D printing is just one example. However, we must use them to solve problems rather than create new ones.
For more on the potential of 3D printing, see Why 3D Printed Food Just Transformed Your Supply Chain.