Will 3D Printing Put An End To Mass Manufacturing?
Apr 11, 2011 12:23
Just a few years ago the idea of 3D printing was more science fiction than consumer reality. The technology printers first appeared about 10 years ago and were little more than glorified office printers. But it has since made incredible advances, and is used today for everything from printing stem cells to create human organs such as skin, bladders and other body parts, to large scale aircraft engine prototypes.
Therefore, it is not surprising that companies are now beginning to seriously look at the advantages of 3D printing (also reffered to as additive manufacturing), could it fundamentally change the nature of our society and the world?
According to a February cover story by The Economist, the technology "has the potential to transform manufacturing because it lowers the costs and risks." Since a 3D printer can create a solid object or all the components to be assembled afterwards, the possibilities are endless for anyone with a little creativity and ingenuity.
"3D printing will for sure be a new mode of manufacturing," says Peter Weijmarshausen, the CEO of Shapeways, which creates 3D objects for consumers. "People are no longer only happy with mass-produced products that all look the same. That is just what mass production has given them. With 3D printing you can produce en masse custom and personalized products at perhaps almost the same prices." And while today's 3D printers can range from a whopping $14,900 to
$59,900, the prices are likely to come down over time as the trend
continues to grow.
Experts say that 3D printing will eventually infiltrate the market, just not anytime soon.