Innovators are making tremendous strides with applications for 3D printing. The latest were reviewed recently by Car and Driver, which reported on the emerging development of 3D-printable carbon fiber automotive parts. According to the publication:
“The brand-new MarkForged Mark One printer…can print parts from continuous carbon fibers. Previously, only short fibers could be used in 3D printing, which limits strength and stiffness. The Mark One means the 3D-printing process can now create finished parts, not just prototypes, that match the strength and durability of those molded or machined from high-performance composites.”
Essentially, the report is saying 3D printing has attained a new plateau, moving from its status as a prototyping machine to one that can be used in place of much more costly manufacturing processes.
To me, the whole history of 3D printing is reminiscent of the development of computers. Initially computers were monsters that filled most of a room, and both their capabilities and applications were limited. Over the years, technologists were able to make computers exponentially more powerful, shrinking them to desktop size, then briefcase size, then shirt-pocket size. Today we find computers all over the house, take them with us when we commute and travel, and use them in every aspect of our life.
Surely 3D printers are heading in the same direction. Their next plateau should be a viable home version that anyone can use to print workable finished parts and products. When 3D printers are found in every home, they’ll change our lives in a way that no other technology has impacted us since the smartphone.
I’m secretly waiting for the invention of the consumer desktop 3D printer to meet a very specific challenge: I want the ability to duplicate anything I’ve put down and now can’t find.
I’m confident that the first 10 products to emerge from my 3D printer will be:
1. My car key, complete with microchip
2. Glasses, with plastic prescription lenses
3. The 7 iron I left on a fairway in Royal Oak
4. The cable box remote
5. The TV remote
6. The sound bar remote
7. My 3/16” wrench
8. My smartphone
9. My computer mouse
10. That miniscule screw that holds the door lock knob in place
In fact, I could reprint any of these objects as fast as I can misplace them (even though I’d have to reprogram the remotes every time). I’m ready for this new technology to come barreling through my house and fix all my failings. Make me a hero, 3D printer, and I might ask you to print more 3D printers so you can create a little work group to produce an inventory of all the stuff I lose and will need to pull off the shelf sooner or later.