3D printing has long been a hot topic in the tech industry, with investors and consumers closely following the evolution of this exciting technology. The prospect of being able to design and print 3D objects or being able to doodle into thin air (something which 3Doodler is fast turning into a reality) has captured the imagination of the general public as well as technological innovators.
3D printing is already a relatively established technology in industrial manufacturing but now we are seeing the technology becoming more readily available to individuals and small businesses. This begs the question…could 3D printing for the consumer be just around the corner?
There have been some amazing stories in the media recently illustrating how 3D printing technology could have a profound impact on healthcare; take the 3D printer which produced a jaw bone for a transplant patient, or the news that donor organs could soon be printed on demand.
The fashion industry has also followed suit, with Dita Von Teese stepping out last week in the world’s first dress produced with a 3D printer. It seems like almost everything from organs to clothing, and even garden gnomes like these showcased by Makerbot last week at SXSW, is within the realm of possibility.
Excitement around this phenomenon has reached an all-time peak, but tongues are wagging as experts question what such a shift could mean for both intellectual property rights and public safety.
Firstly from a copyright perspective, there has been concern that ability to share and print digital files will make Intellectual Property regulation almost impossible. There are worries about the implications in terms of the repercussions for businesses; what impact could 3D printing have on the economy if we can print off products on demand?
Moreover, in the face of the recent US gun crime debate, concerns have been raised that one day it could be possible for people to download files for weapons. CNET reported that Alice Taylor, CEO of Makie Labs doesn’t believe the dangers are imminent. She said “I feel like it’s going to be easier for at least a decade to go and buy a gun off the shelf…I think this is a problem of the future, but it’s a long way away.”
The general consensus on 3D printing seems to be – as with many technology innovations – although there are risks and challenges, the pros outweigh the cons. The move of 3D printing to a more consumer market could help to empower entrepreneurship, innovation and creative thinking and there could be huge potential health benefits. Although there are certainly substantial flaws which need to be ironed out and regulations which will need to be introduced, we’ve already got our thinking caps on in the office as to what we’d like to try our hand at printing!