We know from last month’s 3D printing show in London, that 3D printers are capable of printing almost anything. From small gifts to film sets, and spare keys to human body parts, 3D printing is possibly the most versatile invention since the production-line, there’s not much it can’t do. In fact, the only thing standing in the way of 3D printing taking over the world is the limits of our imagination. So when thinking about the possibilities of 3D printing, as one often does, I began to think about the future role of the 3D printer in the workplace. No, I wasn’t thinking about industry-specific jobs such as printing props for a film or creating miniature cityscapes for museums, I imagined an all-round purpose of the 3D printer for the everyday office. This purpose is a replacement for the stationary cupboard!
How could this idea work?
What happens when your stationary cupboard starts to run low on supplies? You would usually order more stock in from your supplier. Maybe it’s all from one supplier, maybe you have to use different suppliers for different stationary items. But what if you could just make a new stapler? Or a pen? Or a ruler? Wouldn’t it be so much easier?
Imagine a future-office where you keep an abundance of materials rather than an excess of stationary that you don’t need? Because it’s always the things you never need that end up clogging up the cabinet, the things you always run out of always need to be reordered. With a 3D printer printing stationary, you’re effectively saving time, money and the environment.
As with all aspects of 3D printing, the mastery lies not in the machine, but in the materials used. Having flexible, multipurpose materials means that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ attitude can be used, saving money on things we don’t need. You can mould pens, rulers, staplers and pretty much anything out of plastic, so why not keep stores of it and only use what we need? The days of inaccurate orders are long gone, and we can give a whole new meaning to the phrase, ‘supply and demand’!
Printers have been using everything from plastic to chocolate to 3D print, and there really is no limit on what can be printed. I think an optimistic – but realistic – prediction is that everyone will one day have a ‘stock’ of different materials that they keep next their 3D printer, only needing to download files whenever they need to print anything.
Are we likely to see it anytime soon?
Possibly, with the instantly-evolving culture surrounding 3D printing nowadays, it seems as though anything is possible. It’s only a matter of time before the design files are created, all it needs is a little investment and we could suddenly see these ‘Stationary Cupboards’ pop up in offices all over the world. With the way 3D printing technology works, we could be integrating mobile technology to send stationary ‘prints’ to printers worldwide. Imagine before boarding a flight in Berlin back to your offices in London, you remember that supplies are running low, so you simply send a message to your machine to start the printing process, in time for when you get back. As I said earlier: the possibilities are endless…
Say goodbye to Staplers, and the rest…
The question on everyone’s lips is the same when talking about the innovations that 3D printing is making, and that’s: ‘So what does this mean for ‘X’ ’? The fear of 3D printing ruining everything and putting shops out of business is not uncommon, and I did talk about that a little recently here. But I don’t think it’s a major concern, as with all things, the technology first has to be developed, then sold, then trusted, and so many things can go wrong along the way.
For now, I think the future of 3D printing is still as ‘up in the air’ as it always was, and although our imaginations are running wild and even more and more things are being developed from it, ultimately a big push is needed to drive 3D printing from the realms of industry specific arenas and into the mass market and to truly integrate it into everyday life. But watch this space, this is a warning that we could soon be saying goodbye to our staplers!