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27 September 2013 | Ken Turbitt Blog
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The 3D Printing Revolution
This week Ken looks at how 3D printing has the potential to revolutionise the way we live...

  Ken Turbitt

Last week I was on holiday in Madeira which is not too far from the UK, but runs at a much slower pace. It gave me some time to catch up on reading industry articles and my usual holiday murder mystery books. One of the articles that caught my eye and imagination was about 3D printing, the new “industrial revolution”.

At HP we’ve been producing 3D printers for quite some time, mostly to create models (not the human type you understand!). Over recent years these printers have become very diverse and can produce, not just models, but the real thing. The article I read mentioned a “day in the life” of scenario where in 10 years’ time we will all be making use of 3D printers to create things we currently buy as a service from others. In other words we become personal manufacturers and consumers. Just pause for a moment to think about that …

The article went something like this. You drive home from work, as you park your car in the garage you damage the car bumper. You check it out and discover that the bumper needs replacing. So you head into your house and check out the manufacturers 3D design plan/code on-line and pay to download it. In the meantime your wife says she has nothing to wear (not heard that one before!), and as you are due to go out for dinner in an hour, you download her size and shape design code from her favourite designer, insert the 3D material and colour (silk, red), and give her 30mins to shower and get ready, by which time the dress is waiting and a perfect fit.

You then send the car bumper information and the code to the 3D printer which now has cartridges of Plastics for the bumper and go out to dinner. When you return from dinner the bumper is ready. You take off the existing one and replace it with the new one, an exact colour match and fit. You could even print off the tools to fit it with! All a lot cheaper than going to the bodyshop only for them to order and then replace the bumper.

Now when I read this I thought it was all fictional, however all of these examples are available now, just not at the personal scale/level, but they are for car manufacturers and clothes designers. It is believed we only see scale and improvements in the raw material cartridges to make it an everyday household item. This means the value of items will be in the design patterns (patent, copyright) and raw materials (plastic, colours, silks, wools etc). Effectively taking us a full cycle back to the Industrial revolution , but worse. Rather than only the bosses owning the Industry, we would all produce our own consumable products, apart from complex ones like a car, but we could replace the parts ourselves!

The key industry would then be in the printers (you need a least the first one to re-produce its parts or create a second!), the designs/codes, the raw material cartridges and of course marketing to encourage us we need these “things” we can produce.

Watch this space over the next 10 years or so and we will see how much of this takes off. Based on ease of use, cost and the consumables, I believe it has the potential to revolutionise the way we live today. 

Any feedback and comments are always welcome!


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