From a major VC firm’s recent $30 million investment in the industrial-grade 3-D printing space to the news that Staples will become the first major U.S. retailer to sell consumer-friendly 3-D printers, it’s clear that 3-D printing has reached its inflection point.
And perhaps its hype point, too.
The technology is decades old, but now there’s an ecosystem in place (which includes my own company) that moves it beyond the maker edges to mainstream center. So now more than ever I’m asked for an insider’s view on the hype vs. realities of 3-D printing — and where it’s going.
3-D printing won’t replace other manufacturing technology
3-D printing is indeed an important fabrication technology, because it has the marvelous ability to make anything regardless of the complexity of the form. Other fabrication techniques, honed over decades of industrialization, struggle with geometric complexity — where 3-D printers can print either the most intricate shapes or simplest cube with equal ease.
The fact is that 3-D printing is really, still, an immature technology.
Never before have we had a technology where we can so freely translate our ideas into a tangible object with little regard to the machinery or skills available. Yet just as the microwave didn’t replace all other forms of cooking as initially predicted, 3-D printing will not replace other manufacturing technologies let alone industrial-scale ones for a variety of reasons. It will complement them.
The fact is that 3-D printing is really, still, an immature technology. We’ve built a magical aura around it — sci-fi style replicator! — but as soon as anyone actually uses a 3-D printer for any period of time, they immediately wish for faster build times, higher quality prints, larger build envelopes, better and cheaper materials … and so on.
daily alternative | alternative news – An Insider’s View of the Myths and Truths of the 3-D Printing ‘Phenomenon’