The future of 3-D Printing

By on March 11th, 2013 in Social Implications of Technology, Societal Impact

A good friend of mine is a pretty active hobbyist 3-D printer. He has two of the things – and sometimes both of them are even fully assembled and working! What isn’t often discussed in all the hype about 3-D printing is just how difficult the things are to use. He spends ages tinkering with temperatures(for the extruder and the build platform), the extruder flow rates, the slice sizes, and the fill patterns whenever he tries to print a new design. It usually takes him at least 5, if not 10 attempts to get a usable print. The fact is, 3-D printing is still very much in it’s infancy. That’s not to say it’s not going to change our world, I just think it’s going to be more stuff like this 3-D printed skull than home-made AR-15 lowers.

And that’s still really cool! A medical implant that is perfectly scaled and shaped to the body of the person who’s receiving it. That may not be the at-home revolution that a lot of people are dreaming about, but even customization on this level has the possibility of improving a lot of lives. And have you heard of Shapeways?

It looks like it’s just an Etsy for 3-D printed stuff, but it’s actually much more than that. If you have a design, you can commission a print from Shapeways. If you want to, you can upload it to their site for sale to other people who want your design. So far, jewelry seems really popular, which makes sense. The power of the 3-D printing is in the customization it allows. It’s never going to make much sense to print out your own… Legos at home rather than buying them in a shop, but how cool would it be to be able to design your own Lego set, have it custom made, and have it shipped to your home?