The printing of parts and products has the potential to transform manufacturing because it lowers the costs and risks. No longer does a producer have to make thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of items to recover his fixed costs. In a world where economies of scale do not matter any more, mass-manufacturing identical items may not be necessary or appropriate, especially as 3D printing allows for a great deal of customisation. Indeed, in the future some see consumers downloading products as they do digital music and printing them out at home, or at a local 3D production centre, having tweaked the designs to their own tastes. That is probably a faraway dream. Nevertheless, a new industrial revolution may be on the way.
I can’t be sure that everyone’s going to be wanting to get into this but the implications are far reaching. As it is more and more designers are relying on 3D printing to develop working prototypes of their products.
My office has a pretty rudimentary 3D printer but it churns our models of buildings far faster than an intern cuts cardboard. They’re big, clunky and expensive, for the moment. But imagine what happens when they become more portable and affordable?