3D printing is one of those things that people (like me) can’t shut up about. And rightfully so: this stuff is future tech. People are 3D printing knick-knacks, jewelry, and esoteric mechanical parts now, but how long until we can easily print organs? Until we can voice command our 3D printer to give us “Earl Gray, Hot”? I have a sneaking suspicion that it will be way sooner than we think. It might be indicative of the circles I run in, but I know more than a few people who have already received 3D printed presents this past Christmas.
Now, I’m a big sci-fi fan—the kind that will corner you and go on and on about my predictions for the future. I’ll talk your ear off about which technologies I think we’ll arrive at first, what they will mean to mankind, and how we’ll grow, change, and adapt to them. One of the scenarios I imagine to be quite likely is this: before too long, we’re going to see the rise of local 3D print shops. They’ll show up in every neighborhood, every street corner. Things like hardware stores, even car lots, will go the way of Blockbuster. People will be able go to a ‘manufactory,’ browse through a database of printable objects, choose what you want, anything from a socket wrench to a surf board, pay the licensing and material fee, and it’ll spit it out for you. (This will be, of course, unless 30-minute or less drone delivery takes over first.)
The service we’re using to do our 3D printing magic, the Shapeways Developer API, is remarkably close to this, conceptually. It allows websites and apps to be 3D printing portals. 3D artists, engineers, and Joe Everyman can do cutting-edge 3D printing without having to worry about the actual manufacturing or shipping details. This frees them (and us) to launch exciting new designs and products with minimal overhead and allows a business to focus on one thing: making the best, most innovative designs they can. We’re thrilled to be using one of the leading names in 3D printing for our manufacturing, and I suspect that we’ll be seeing a whole lot more of this kind of thing in the future. And so do they.