3D printing has been around for 30 years so the technology itself is not new. However, as the hardware, software and materials become more accessible, their potential announces a new era for entrepreneurs and a possible threat for big companies and global supply chains.
A critical technology to understand the future
Having used a 3D printer, I can say the biggest advantage is that, compared to regular manufacturing, a lot less machinery and operational knowledge are required. That makes the technology easy to be embraced by entrepreneurs of all backgrounds and to be applied in various industries from education to fashion, consumer electronics, medicine, automotive and many more.
That makes my second point: while 3D printers are still mainly used in engineering faculties, business schools in Canada and all over the world should invest in that technology and make its potential accessible to students. As an example, University of Illinois Urbana-Campaign is the world’s first business school to open a 3D printing lab that has been allowing many students from non-engineering backgrounds to turn ideas into objects since 2013.
3D printing has the power to transform consumers to creators and this might boost our ability to find local solutions to local problems and create value in our communities forever. It is an important technology that might shape the future of economies, industries and the way we consume.
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What about the environment?
In regards to the environmental impact, 3D printing remains very impressive.
As opposed to the traditional manufacturing where pieces should be fabricated and shaped to obtain the final product, 3D printing allows what is called “additive manufacturing”: the 3D printers print directly and only the object which reduces waste up to 90%.
Another good news is with digitization of the designs, shipping can be replaced by downloading. When objects become desktop files, its environmental impact decreases drastically.
What is next for 3D technology?
New materials including the conductive ones. Faster desktop printers for rapid prototyping and even manufacturing to make entrepreneurs’ business ideas come true. Mass customization possibilities at interesting price point for dental implants, prosthetics, instruments and even foot wear (believe me, Nike and New Balance are on it).