A report by Gartner predicts affordable 3D printers within a few years, opening up a range of possibilities for the technology on a consumer level.
3D printing is an amazing technology with a lot of applications: Companies have already used it to create models, even mechanical ones with working parts; they’ve been used to create working firearms; and on a more peaceful note, they’ve been used to create artificial tissue for surgery, and even body parts like ears.
On the consumer level, the internet is beginning to fill up with free models that one can print at home, such as iPod docks or desk toys. Unfortunately, 3D printers are cost prohibitive and though prices are going down, a good model will still be too expensive and too bulky for the average consumer. A recent Gartner report however, suggests that an “enterprise-class” 3D printer will cost less than $2000 by the year 2016, and that finally opens up the market for you and me to take part.
This toy demonstrates the power of 3D printing. It was printed in one piece, with no aditional assembly, and all the gears work
The expanded user base will likely change how business transactions are conducted; designers, architects and manufacturers, even those working on a small scale, can easily produce prototypes or models of their products to demonstrate to customers. At home, 3D printing would facilitate easy creation of household items; both practical ones such as measuring cups, and recreational ones such as Christmas decorations or Halloween masks.
To reach the consumer level though, there may be one more hurdle for the new tech, beyond the price. Nikolaj Farrell, who happens to be my very own brother, is project manager for the 3D printing efforts at a Stockholm-based design company, ABA, and had this to say about the technology: “The CAD- programs are still too complex. Within the industry, it isn’t a problem, but regular consumers don’t have that experience. When it becomes really easy to produce original models, I believe more people will discover the technology and begin using it on a wider scale”
Wohler’s Associates, which is a 3D-print consulting group, estimates that by 2015, the worldwide sales of products and services will be as high as $3.7 billion.