By Abbey Peschel
3D printers may be changing the world of production forever. According to “Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing,” these devices offer on demand production to people in a huge variety of fields. From doctors and professional designers to students and small business owners, users across the economic spectrum may soon see their work becoming easier and more customized.
While many have posited that cheaper, easier to build 3D printers would result in heavy home use, “Fabricated” suggests a different hypothesis. Instead of a printer in every kitchen, authors suggest that the world will see greater individualization in marketing and promotion fields, medical fields, and even every day consumer products. Most people won’t create their own specialized objects: instead they’ll have them printed by a specialist, then purchase them through an ordinary store or online retailer.
Many industries have already seen some of these effects already. For instance, custom-printed prosthetics have been targeted as a way to make these devices more comfortable to wear and more effective for their individual owners. Marketing companies are experimenting with printing three-dimensional logo images and other promotional products in substances ranging from chocolate to resin.
One designer in Amsterdam has even printed a shoe designed to hold an iPhone. According to Alan Nguyen , the shoe was created as a legal test. While the design is wholly original in itself, its purpose is to hold a device that has been fiercely defended by intellectual property lawyers. The iPhone shoe also includes elements of other case designs for the Apple product, as a mash-up and tribute to their original designers.
This type of printing also poses other potential quandaries. With designers creating and uploading the plans and instructions for all kinds of devices, anyone with a printer could potentially create one of those objects. When this is applied to scans of copyrighted or patented items, home and small business fabrication suddenly poses a much greater intellectual property risk. The possibility of 3D printed weapons and other black market items adds to many experts’ concern.
No matter what issues arise in relation to three-dimensional printing, however, it’s certain to expand horizons and change many people’s idea of how manufacturing works. The days of identical mass-produced objects may be giving way to a world of exciting new custom-created products.
Abbey Peschel is a Boston-area printing and marketing specialist. You can find her on Twitter @Abbey_Peschel