November 30, 2012
Four ways 3D printing could change the world
Our research has seen us explore four different social futures around 3D printing.
They were shaped by how corporate this new industrial revolution will be and how much individuals will engage with the technology. In particular we were interested in how 3D printing might influence the transportation of objects and the travel of people.
In order to find out what futures might be, where 3D printing has significance (or not), we held a workshop with the Futures Company in London, and picked the brains of engineers, consultants, policymakers and designers. The four possible futures are below:
1. Home factories - Everyone has a 3D printer in their home sitting next to their paper printer and making plastic jewellery, kitchen utensils, toys, models, homework projects and non-critical replacement parts.
2. Print shops - Companies are integrating high-end 3D printers that print all sorts of exotic materials – from steel and titanium to sandstone and carbon fibre – into their supply chains and retail outlets.
3. Fab labs - Groups of people work together on not-for-profit or subsidised printers provided with support services and technicians.
4. The 3D bubble - The market bubble has burst as inflated expectations have caused 3D printing to be severely over-hyped.
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