3D printing world is growing at an extremely hurried pace.
Within 2017, the number of printers to be sold worldwide is expected to rise up to one million, (Gartner, 2013), mainly targeting the Consumer market, at an average price between 1,000 and 2,500 dollars per unit. This way, 3D printers are meant to become a very accessible goal for a wide range of customers.
Such data are enlightening the 3D phenomenon as a strong mass-market driver. How far ? Quite boundless.
Immediate access to the object of desire, at a very affordable cost (which are meant to decrease consistently) besides an increasing unbending customer satisfaction: these are the leverages fostering some pervasive use of the "copied" objects, better said 3D reshaped objects, in the unexpected scenario of a renewed economic growth. Whereas manufacture chain-production may be completely twisted upside down.
In fact,3D printing is meant to rebuild objects, which can be widely customized according to almost any desire, though at a very low cost; most of which deliverable and "printable" throughout the network. Here comes such a revolutionary trend for the current economic system, where ICT may become a new paradigm for industry and production environment, supported by two other main factors: Open Source and IoT.
By the time first generation 3D printing patents are being expired, 3D printing is now open to multiple successive innovations. In these very last years, a race has been unleashed to design new polyhedral 3D printers and some innovative use of them. With a strong impact on the community, as far as almost anyone may be free to re-invent and share personal projects throughout the network, so creating an ever rising ripple effect. The so-called FabLabhave newly been born, besides several start-ups.
Everything framed and hinged in-between two other leading agents: Open Source (an "open" and free technology, such as "Arduino" HW born from the Italian genius, flexible, affordable and accessible to everyone) supporting 3D Printing, while heightening it virally; Digital ICT based technologies giving new "intelligence" to dummies objects, so to create asmall universe of “animated things"interconnected and Internet-accessible, for the benefit of the public. Her come the objects "printable" on the go, by the aid of one click, at a very low cost.
Such a combination between IoT and 3D Print, within an Open Source scenario, is quite a good start to enable, millions and millions of people achieving billions of smart objects, connectable to one another. And to the Internet. ICT,while supporting a new world of "smart" replicable objects, supplied throughout the network at an exponential rate, will change people habits and customs, and make dreamy promises come true due to such brand new potentiality.
Today, 3D printing is breaking out different areas, from Engineering to Medicine, from Space to Fashion, from Air to Automotive, not to mention Food, Decor, Cosmetics, Design, Jewelry and Toys (modeling and games for adult and children).
For all kind of production or stage of processing, an ad hoc technology is to be used, also supported by suitable 3D printerscapable to reproduce and reshape a variety of different materials, at very different scale. Whereas production costs are nearly dropping down, helped by a one-to-one marketing strategyable to meet quite any Customer needs.
Here come forth just a few examples.
In the field of medical prosthesis and artificial limbs, components will be produced at a bargain price,particularly affordable if compared to the market trend; therefore, they will be largely customizable even to the smallest detail, as if tailored for a specific patient. This just happened in the Netherlands, where a plaque "printed ad hoc" has been newly installed in the skull of a twenty-two years old girl. Even the problem of children’s biological growth will be overcome, as the limb may "grow" along with the child, therefore assuring a positive effect on costs as prosthesis may be re-printed on-demand.
Even into the air space something is moving. In Hamburg, 3D printing technology has been used to produce metal components for the entire range of Airbus. By reducing the weight and aerodynamic drag of the aircraft, fuel consumption will be significantly reduced. These are all factors that shall not be negligible. So NASA itself already launched a rocket with a 3D printer on board, devoted to build spare parts directly into the orbit, while avoiding to upload stocks for emergencies; which will commonly managed by printing tools and other elements on the spot.
Even the Construction industry is facing some unimaginable challenges. Everyone will be able to build his own house at a basic price, quite the lowest if compared to market prices, also thanks to some new phantasmagoric 3D printers devoted to operate at a very large scale, and printstructures up to 12 square meters at a time. Ecological materialsare also to be included. So far that dreams and productivity are combined to perfection, to regain a healthy, man-sized home concept. Based on the example of the WASP project, inspired by the potter wasp’stechnique, so to build up a house in just 24 hours (Winsun in China).
Even the Food sector has been tempted all along. Due to some techniques pertaining to molecular-gastronomy, eatable fruits can now be “printed”. Great chefs admirably combine liquid nitrogen and 3D printing to reshape ordinary food and merge unusual tastes (e.g.salty ice cream). Every housewife will soon be able to "print”edibles using her favorite ingredients (even dietary ones) so transforming every meal into a newly-design and distinctive one. By affecting novelty and tradition, Barilla is doing his best; this worldwide renownedgiant of the Italian pasta will experience some new production in the Netherlands,by "printing pasta on-site" directly at restaurants’, helped by TNO (l 'Netherlands Organization for applied Scientific Research). So to merge productivity and inventive, avant-garde and costumes.
Within arts, handicrafts and design, 3D printing potentiality is highly varied, ranging from fashion to furniture, decorative objects, jewelry, etc. ... so giving the opportunity to create high quality and thoroughly refinedobjects,as the precious, in answer to the customer’s ever changing wishes. Here comes the world where style is embracing technology.
Even stock exchanges follow the mood. Materialise, a best-of-breed 3D printers company has just been listed on NASDAQ index. It produces and sells different kinds of objectsto the public, ranging from pieces of furniture to jewelsall along. The company gets new ideas right from the bottom, throughout the Internet Communities, so giving life to some visionary projects. On-demand.
Then what can we expect from future? 3D Printing affair is widely spreading out, thoroughly supported by the Internet big potential. Besides, ICT is expanding horizons and broadening a renewed growth.
According to Gartner, by 2018, at least seven of the 10 major USA retailers on the web will make use of 3D printing technology to generate customizable commands. After the all-time producers, such as Stratasyswhich has been operating for 30 years on end, and is nowadays a main industry-leader, big players want to get involved as well, so taking the fieldon both consumer and business markets.
Due to 3D printing, Amazon has already started to sell low-cost consumer items,which can be addressed one-to-one, on the basis of each customer’s request. Here come objects printable as a service, on-demand, at a very competitive price. So far that the production process is to be inverted; as if an atelier newly designed dress was to be sold as a basic one.
Autodesk will innovate his way to produce drawings and make 3D projects, by the aid of synergies coming out from a new Open Source platform,able to support ad hoc 3D applications, so to create, modify and edit patterns and three-dimensional objects to be shared on the network. This will dramatically change the working methods commonly used by professionals and architecture studios.
Also the "crowd” will get involved. Thanks to the use of 3D printers (used either "in house" or via the web service) customers will soon become leaders, switching from being consumer to becoming pro-sumer and makers, quite on their own. They will drive such a phenomenon into the third industrial revolution, far ahead, in a widely openscenario, still to be explored. By the way, ICT is meant to be the one, enabling and supportingplatforms, communities, web services, so perceiving hints and stimulus right from the ground, as an ever-ending bottom-upvirtuous process. Here comes the new logic of such a 3D pervasive era.