Why you should pay more attention to the 3D printer industry

08.07.15 | in: Manufacturing
Why you should pay more attention to the 3D printer industry
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When we think of innovations we think of those life-changing inventions that have changed the course of history and disrupted numerous industries in the process, inventions that come to mind are the television, personal computer, and mobile phone. And the way that the 3D printing technology is going, we may be able to add this invention to the list.

Right now, a large proportion of 3D printers are used to create proto-types or individual parts of larger, more complex objects. There is a large demand for 3D printers that are able to print fully functional, ready to use products straight from the printer. As functional objects are multifaceted and composed of numerous different materials, this would require a 3D printer that is capable of using many different materials, comfortably.

Researchers at MIT have made a lot of progress towards this multi-material 3D printer. In a breakthrough in 3D printing technology, MIT has designed a 3D printer that is able to use 10 different materials. While this printer is far from materialising purchases, the advancements that this 3D printer can make are exhaustive, and open up a whole world of opportunities.

The differences between what it can do right now and what we can expect in future 3D printers has been a likened to the differences between a calculator and a modern mobile phone. 3D printing is certainly heralding the future.

What does the future look like for 3D printers?

The future is looking bright for 3D printers, not so much for maintenance of existing manufacturing methods. As 3D printer technology advances we can expect prices to become more competitive, creating more widely available 3D printers for use by consumers, and businesses alike.

Eventually, this may lead to the household production of numerous objects, either complete, or close to the point of completion. Consumers will be able to pay for the raw materials and the IP software files for designs they wish to print from their own homes.

What are the implications of 3D printers for manufacturers and how can they overcome them?

3D printers may have a few implications to existing supply-chain manufacturers. The current system of manufacturing is based on the premise that the more things you produce, the lower the cost per unit. While this system has worked well for the production of numerous objects, it may not fare so well for the production of objects that are already being modified, but at a cost to the consumer. These products would benefit the most from 3D printer technology, as the consumer can modify products as they please. This is the niche industry that 3D printing would likely tap into first.

Like all new innovations and disruptive technologies, it’s important for existing industries to embrace new technologies and collaborate with their audience, rather than try to swim against the current. Businesses that have successfully embraced disruptive technologies are typically the biggest winners.