Saturday, September 22, 2012

3-D printing: Bigger than the Internet?

We've been curious about the rise of 3-D printing, wondering if it's some kind of disruptive technology that will displace jobs, create new opportunities or do both.
IVN says it will be bigger than the Internet.
It will create new industries and eliminate old ones. The trend towards 3D printing cannot be stopped. And it absolutely has a political component, as it can route around government regulations and will undoubtedly make some patent and copyright holders go berserk in attempts to stop it.
Here's how Wikipedia describes it:
Additive manufacturing or 3D printing[1] is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital model. 3D printing is achieved using additive processes, where an object is created by laying down successive layers of material.[2] 3D printing is considered distinct from traditional machining techniques (subtractive processes) which mostly rely on the removal of material by drilling, cutting etc. 
3D printing is usually performed using a materials printer, and since 2003 there has been large growth in the sales of these machines. Additionally, the cost of 3D printers has gone down.[3] The technology also finds use in the fields of jewellery, footwear, industrial design, architecture, engineering and construction (AEC), automotive, aerospace, dental and medical industries, education, geographic information systems, civil engineering, and many others.
Bloomberg reports the first retail 3-D printing company opened in New York City:
A quirky kind of store has opened up at 298 Mulberry Street in downtown Manhattan. It’s the first retail location for MakerBot, one of the leading consumer 3D printer companies. People can come in, look at a variety of printed objects, and buy 3D printed knickknacks like watch bands and little plastic squirrels for their friends. They can also check out the just-released Replicator 2 printer from MakerBot that costs $2,199 and lets people build larger, more precise objects than its predecessors could. (It’s aimed at professional designers who want an object factory on their desk.) 
I’ve been waiting a while for one of the 3D printer makers to go the retail route, and it’s quite something to see the initial store appear in New York. Through MakerBot and Shapeways, in particular, New York has emerged at the hotbed of the consumer 3D printing scene. (Shapeways is sort of like the (AMZN) of 3D printing. It lets people order objects made out of plastic, glass, metal, and other materials, and then prints the objects and mails them off.) Later this year, in fact, Shapeways will also open a 3D printing factory in Long Island City and have an area where people can see how these objects get made.
Stay tuned.