The idea and the first patents round what we know today as 3D printing can be traced back to the 1980s when Charles Hull invented a technique called stereolithography. Although its long history, only in the last few years this technology became widely available. Because of rapid development within new markets printers are getting cheaper and cheaper, with prices typically in the range of US$250 – US$2,500.
The applications of 3D printing can already been seen in the medical, automotive and aerospace, and fashion industry. Currently, there are research in the field of the bio-printing, which will enable the production of human organs. Also, in the Netherlands they announced on 18th June that 3D printer robots will build a bridge over the Amsterdam canal.
Besides all this markets and research, the biggest disruption that this technology would produce is that everybody might be able to print at home most of the products that we need to buy from a store and are produced by traditional manufactures. We could print our own clothes, furniture, and kitchen appliances, for example. Or even our own car.
The disruption is not only from the consumer perspective but also from the manufactures’. It would not be need so many employees and large plants to fabricate our goods. More, logistics companies as FedEx or UPS would suffer a massive impact in its business model, because of the smaller number of parcels to be delivered. On the other hand, we won’t need to be worry if the Christmas gift will arrive on time.
As a consequence of the expansion of this technology, the costs of production and prices would decrease dramatically and the access to new products would simplify and be universalized. In addition, countries that depend heavily in cheap manufacture could have to redesign its economic model and countries that are looking for industrialization could start to invest using this technology as the base for the new industry.
We still have a long road to this point, and a large number of opportunities will appear for customer, manufacturers, and countries.