There was once a time when people would be stunned and excited in equal measure at the sight of a button being pushed and printed words tumbling out of a machine the size of a garden shed. Should I attempt to impress somebody with such a contraption now and I would be laughed at and shown how easy it is to wirelessly print from a mobile phone using a printer down the road. Impossible though it may seem however, even that would fail to impress some people; these people have seen or tasted the future. They have witnessed 3D printing.
Imagine needing a clean spoon or other utensil. Instead of washing up an old one, you could simply print yourself a new one. While you’re at it you could print yourself any manner or number of new items.
This might sound absurd and the applications somewhat far-fetched or daft but 3D printing will allow you to print pretty much anything! It might not allow you to print yourself a whole helicopter but in theory you could build one once you had printed every single moving part (about 10,000 in total) and correctly assembled them; an extreme example, granted but a legitimate one nevertheless.
How does it work?
Of course it sounds like magic but it isn’t. An object’s dimensions are either selected or scanned and uploaded before an additive process builds up a replica of the item layer by layer. You would only need one of something such as a cup or bowl and you could run off as many copies of it as you like. Different materials can be used for the process from polymers to chocolate – making the possibilities endless for those using this technology within their own homes.
What can you do with it?
3D printing offers a cheap and effective means of making prototypes for various industries, parts for engineering and aviation and, on a more domestic level, could make tools for use around the house or even accessories like a mobile phone case.
3D printing has the potential to change the environments in which we live as well as our behaviour and needs as consumers forever. Instead of going to the hardware shop for a certain type of screw we might find ourselves ordering a 3D printer top-up from Phoenix Direct and printing our own versions instead.
In a world where digital downloads are already challenging the purchase of physical media, the popularity of goods you can print in your own home will be undoubtedly strong.
When will you get it?
Although 3D printing is starting to make big changes within industry, its cost may keep it out of most domestic environments for a little while yet. The last few years however have seen the technology becoming cheaper and cheaper so it will inevitably become as much a part of our homes as the television, microwave or home computer in future years.