3D Printing: A Look from the Future

Disclaimer: This post is intended to be a fictional narrative showing the future possibilities brought about by 3D printing. Hope you enjoy it.

It is the year 2023. Only a few people have anticipated the real impact of the 3D revolution. As the early computers became more advanced, they were able to eventually display 3D graphics in their screens. People have embraced the concept ever since. Movies popularized stereoscopic 3D. Movies, shows and games that are in 3D made the experience more visually engaging. All of these advances in 3D technology were landmark achievements but none of them has impacted the world as much as 3D printing would. The things 3D printer allowed Michael to do have threatened the manufacturing industry. It is a threat that is destined to have a lasting effect on the industry.

3D printing’s rise in popularity in the last decade seemed like a natural transition. People were getting more sophisticated and were not satisfied with merely printing flat images. They wanted something that would be better suited to the 3-dimentional world around them. The transition from merely printing flat words and images to being able to print 3D figures of anything imaginable allured many people. Thus 3D printing took off.

It had been more than a decade since 3D printing was seen as merely a novel idea and a hobby. You can find 3D printers in most homes now. Michael has one in his home as well. It has become one of those commodities in life, like television and computers, which he seems to not be able to live without these days. People rely on these printers for producing just about anything, from nails for a broken cabinet to a replacement case for a cellphone. There is no need to buy many things in stores anymore. People could simply just create them at home. Therefore, a lot of the manufacturing factories and retail outlets have shut down in the past years. There was very little need to sell basic objects and parts.

3D printing has become cheap and reliable enough to be a viable replacement to mass manufacturing. Once a printer unit is purchased, all that are needed are the raw materials to produce the 3D models. Demands for such raw materials are so high that many of the surviving retailers end up selling them. Competition between retailers is pretty stiff. Competition is good for the consumers, though. It leads to lower prices, more innovation and better quality.

Michael finds himself using the printer every day. He uses it to fix broken things in his house and to build miniature models of the car prototypes he designs. He doesn’t go out to buy things often, but when he does, it is usually to buy materials for the models he wishes to print and to stock up on food and household cleaning products. There are occasions where he has to buy products that he would otherwise not be able to create with his printer, like clothing and electronic devices. There is one particular store he likes to go to. It is a huge warehouse-like store that exclusively sells raw materials for the 3D printers. It offers all kinds of materials imaginable. The materials come in a variety of properties and the customers can select the combination of properties that they want. Customers can choose the material’s color, texture, strength, and flexibility. Michael has not found himself in a situation where he did not find the exact material he needs in the store.

The process Michael undertakes when he creates his miniature car models is pretty simple. It all starts with a blueprint or a prototype. He creates the prototype with a 3D modeling software in his desktop computer. The finished design is then printed on a connected 3D printer. Now all Michael has to do is watch and wait as his design comes to life. The printer forms the object layer by layer, starting from the bottom. The object is built as the materials are added to it a section at a time. It normally takes 30 seconds to 5 minutes for a printing session to be completely done, depending on the size and complexity of the design. Michael’s car designs would usually take about 2 and a half minutes to print due to the high amount of detail he puts into it.

Michael, like many people, never imagined that the heart of manufacturing would move to people’s homes. It was only a few years ago that it really hit him and he began to realize that the drastic changes that were happening around the manufacturing industries were going to be long-term. Overall, he feels it was a change for the better. It gave every person the power to create. The key advantage of 3D printing is that it is very versatile. Users can customize the shape, length, and color, to name a few, and produce virtually anything they can imagine.

It has become rather cheap to own a 3D printer as well. Michael bought his for around $100. A little over ten years ago, a basic printer would run upwards of $1,000. The lower price definitely helped 3D printers gain widespread adoption. Michael just heard in the news the other day that roughly 90% of the world’s population own or have direct access to 3D printers. As the size and technology of 3D printers increase, more types of things will be able to be created with it. Maybe someday, Michael won’t have to buy a new television anymore. He could just simply print it. He certainly can’t wait for that time to come.

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