3D printing mimics the process in which swords have been manufactured for the past 1000 years, building the intended item layer by layer, changing the gradient and width of each layer until the final piece is complete.
With that being said, the latest trend in technology is not something of ancient times. 3D printing could well be the next big thing, both domestic and industry wise, but will 3D printing really change the world?
One of the great aspects of 3D printing which is becoming increasingly popular across the world is the customizability of items.
If you want to shorten the length of a pole you don’t need to hire someone to do it for you, merely key in a few different calibrations to the software that accompanies your printer and your new pole will match your needs. This could result in limiting the costs of consumer businesses due to the fact businesses won’t have to consult external sources to fix an issue they can easily solve themselves, assuming of course that they have the resources available.
An example of this would be a company distributing sets of cutlery. They will be able to print variations of popular designs that sell well already, allowing them to get a foot in the door of an already competitive market without absurdly high costs. The up and coming standardisation of 3D printing will allow businesses in the future to produce competitive products based on pre-existing items within any market and still allow themselves to be viable amongst competitors.
Leading on from this, companies which are currently looking to launch a new product will be able to Produce a 3D Prototype of an idea within a matter of hours, whereas previously they may have had to wait days or weeks. With these prototypes, they are the able to get feedback on refine their designs to meet the needs of their target market, allowing them to penetrate their consumer base with a product that is instantly desirable.
Prototypes also help budding entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas to potential business angels or investors. Having a physical copy of their invention is a lot more convincing than a JPEG on a laptop, and can be used to both get feedback from experienced business experts within the field whilst still pushing for that crucial investment.
3D printing will also allow businesses to identify any design flaws before the product goes in for mass development, meaning that it can save companies millions in wasted manufacturing costs whilst simultaneously letting them improve their product, what more could you ask for?
But, 3D printing isn’t only about the business end. The domestic side of 3D printing holds the same amount of, if not more, uses than the business aspect, which opens up doors to households across the world. Examples of tea cup sets modelled like rockets have been produced, customized protective iPhone cases are becoming all the rage and Jay Leno even use 3D printing to create small parts to maintain his classic car collection where they may not be readily available to purchase!
It’s Not All Rays of Sunshine Though
One of the issues that is faced by printing addicts across the world is that the readily available modelling plastics used to form their products often leave a rough exterior, reducing the aesthetic appeal of it. This is coupled with the high expense of the disposable plastics used, meaning that any printing failures that occur aren’t just thrown away without a second thought and the costs can quickly add up. Another issue that users may find with the end product of a 3D printer is the failure to replicate the true functionality of the finished product in comparison to the prototype produced.
Looking to create larger models? Well 3D printing still isn’t an option unfortunately. The current models of 3D printers are lacking in size, meaning that they’re only appropriate for smaller scale operations. With that being said, you could almost guarantee that the printers will see a significant size increase over the next 10 years as the technology develops, so don’t get your hopes down just yet.
With the recent developments in regards to the economies across the world, manufacturers are looking at ways to produce their stock and market closer to their consumers, thus limiting their costs. Recessions hitting countries left, right and centre mean that costs are high for businesses and the prices they set are even higher. 3D printing may be the next step for companies to generate their stock without having to outsource various aspects of it, meaning that their overall profits remain intact whilst not incurring additional charges to their consumers.
An example of this risk could be the fall in Chinese labour outsourcing. Where a company may spend 10% of their annual turnover on the manufacturing of their stock through Chinese workers, they may see a reduction in costs by doing it internally via 3D printing if their demand is high enough. The risk of this will be the reduction in Chinese workers readily available to work in regards to demands for lower wages to meet the Costs of 3D Printing, potentially putting skilled workers out of employment whilst still allowing the end-businesses to function as normal.
In conclusion, 3D printing may have a dramatic effect on the world. The implications for the domestic side of life are more cosmetic in regards to more options for customisable kitchen sets, the odd phone case here and there and maybe even a nice keychain, but the real side of the argument is the business end.
Companies may have to focus their attention on migrating to internally controlled manufacturing if they currently Outsource Manufacturing Work, or seek lower costs to meet that of 3D printing. Larger Chinese labour corporations may also have to consider the consequences of 3D printing in regards to the dramatic impact they will have on their workforce and the availability of work for their employees.
So will 3D printing really change the world? In short, yes, but buy how much is anyone’s guess.
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