Forbes Magazine has recently suggested that the phenomenal growth of 3D printing will result in a sector worth $5billion dollars in less than a decade. Although 3d printing - which physically recreates the result of 3d modelling - is already nearly 30 years old, its recent growth has been exceptional.
One of the reasons for the surge in popularity has been identified by industry guru Terry Wohlers, who Forbes Magazine reports as saying.
'Low-cost 3D printers affect both the professional and consumer markets. The increased sale of these machines over the past few years has taken additive manufacturing (AM) mainstream more than any other single development. 3D printers have helped spread the technology and made it more accessible to students, researchers, do-it-yourself enthusiasts, hobbyists, inventors, and entrepreneurs.'
One concern about the growth of Addictive Manufacturing is its impact on labour markets as items previously manufactured and overseen by human labour will now be fully automated via AM. This could have a devastating blow on emerging nations with a large pool of relatively low-cost, low skilled labour. However, expert Tim Worstall believes that even a wages fall, the effect of 3D printing will be to reduce the cost of consumer items even further.
'But let us go to the extreme and assume that they are cheaper: so much so that manufacturing really does disappear. What does that do to wages? Yup, a fall in the costs of things is equal to, is by definition the equivalent of, a rise in real wages. So if 3D printers do take off it can only be because, by definition, they make us all richer'.
From 3D modelling to 3D printing
3D modelling and AM printing are already having a major impact of industry allowing for rapid prototyping and rapid production. Previous 3d modelling - supported often by 3D visualisation - required traditional manufacturing process to create a prototype or to go into production. Beyond industry, it is interesting to speculate on the role of 3d printing in the home in the near future. Will every home have its 3D printer in the way that most have a computer or internet? Will we all be printing off our own crockery, jewellery or other household goods rather than buying them in the traditional way? In line with other technologies, costs are falling and availability increasing it seems we are likely to find their domestic use increasing.