At the moment, 3D printing is one of the fastest moving and, to my mind, most exciting technologies in existence. Its applications are almost limitless. At the moment it’s being used by businesses to rapidly prototype automotive parts, and by teenage girls to turn their jewellery designs into reality. Soon, it may become a part of everyday life.
3D printing has the power to revolutionise the world, and although there are many advantages it is already bringing, there is also a new set of risks.
How 3D printing works
Although in reality 3D printing encompasses a number of different technologies, at one level the processes are remarkably similar. Objects are built up layer by layer according to a digital model from raw materials in liquid or particle form.
At the moment 3D printers are too costly for most individuals to have at home. Online services which print customers’ designs on demand are springing up, however, and can often provide customised items more cheaply than rivals using traditional techniques. Current suppliers are apparently finding it difficult to keep up with demand.
Replacement for cheap labour
As the developing world develops further, and poverty becomes history, the era of cheap labour will be over. And the manufacturing industry will be in trouble unless it finds a suitable replacement. 3D printing has the scope to fill in this gap in a way that can be advantageous for everyone, assuming that societies and economies adjust to take account of the changing nature of work
Although this is still far off, there is some speculation that 3D printing will eventually be used to build up replacement human organs, obviating the need for donation.
There are 3D printers working with an astonishing range of materials: card and plastic, metals, ceramics, and resin; and producing an astonishing range of objects, from novelty teacups to weapons. Wherein lies one of the most significant problems …
The production of dangerous and unlawful items
The first functional printed gun has already been produced. Are we looking at a future in which weapons can be made at home as easily as digital models can be passed around the Internet? Will every criminal – and every child – soon be able to get hold of anything as long as it’s made out of one of the raw materials a 3D printer can handle? And will law enforcement improve their record on keeping up with technology?
… is another potentially criminal application of 3D technology. Patent and trademark law may soon become as easy to break as copyright law, and perfect replicas of ‘designer’ objects will be producible in peoples’ spare bedrooms.
No point having 3D Technology if your printer doesn’t have any ink-visit Phoenix Direct and stock up on ink catridges!
By CM Mackay, works for Phoenix Direct – Ink cartridge retailer. He loves watching the world move forward in ways that enable people to live happier lives, and putting words together to entertain and inform.