3D printing is pretty impressive; everywhere you see it you’re bound to open your mouth in awe. It’s doing incredible things right now and it seems absolutely unstoppable. From becoming available to purchase at a relatively low price, to printing colossal structures and designs in the industry world; 3D printing is becoming a part of our lives, and it’s creeping into the mainstream.
Who knows where 3D printing could be in five years time, or ten or even fifteen.
In this article, I’m going to present a fictional future scenario to you. This little narrative will hopefully be an insight into how 3D printing could become integrated into our every day lives. A word of warning: don’t take this too seriously, while it is only a bit of fun, who’s to say it won’t actually happen?
The year 2024: E-commerce v3.0
When e-commerce first began take off, it was a huge novelty to get items delivered to your doorstep, just by sitting at you computer. The fact that you didn’t have to leave your house to get products delivered was a truly amazing phenomenon. Not even a telephone call made or a letter posted. The second generation of internet shopping, if you will, was the widespread ‘free delivery’ explosion. It seems that today, more and more retailers are able to offer free delivery as a standard measure, which can put a lot of us off if we are not offered it automatically. The only thing we can ask ourselves now is: can this model be improved further? Well, with the dawn of the 3D printing era looming over us, it certainly can.
A woman sits at home in the year 2024. On a sunny, spring afternoon, she decides to place an order online. Logging into her computer, she heads to a website where she knows she can get what she wants for the best price. What she wishes to purchase is an iPhone 15 case (yes, an iPhone 15). She has been planning to buy this for the last couple of weeks, but never got round to it, the main reason she needs it is because she is going on holiday tomorrow and needs a protective case to keep her phone nice and safe. She needs the case by tonight, and it’s already the afternoon. Most of us living in the year 2014 would laugh and say ‘no chance’, but this isn’t today’s world, this is 2024.
Using her favourite consumable website’s newly implemented ‘DIY’ section; she proceeds to add what appears to be a phone case to her basket. Seems pretty normal so far, right?
A message flashes up on the screen: ‘Choose materials.’
She then does something that we don’t do at the moment, she looks to the left of her computer and starts to flick through a selection of materials and picks out an orange one. She then begins to 3D print the ‘DIY phone case plan’ she bought and just five minutes later, out it comes in the nice bright orange she chose earlier.
How did it happen? A fee was paid to the website for the phone case design plan, which was then downloaded in seconds and send to her 3D printer, which then printed the design while she waited. No delivery necessary.
So is it possible?
This scenario may seem like something from a science fiction film, but it is in fact closer to the present than we may think. At the minute it is possible to do this in a rudimentary form. We can access websites such as Thingiverse and down load CAD files to easily and simply print off the chosen design. The future model explained above however, may take a few years.
Having the capacity to supply the general public with a range of supplies and materials for home use it the next step, and then the availability of the design plans would need to be widened. This will start by more and more websites building up a reputation for having the materials available, and then the more mainstream companies will take hold and scale the operation to bring it to the masses. All this needs is time and development, soon enough it all comes together and before you know it, we will have ‘zero delivery on-line shopping’, or e-commerce v3.0 as I like to call it.
A vision for the future.
As you can see, a future where humans co-exist with 3D printers in perfect harmony is on the horizon and could benefit us greatly. The ease and functionality it could bring to our lives is truly exciting. At tonergiant, we’re really looking forward to the day where we can see the 3D printer step into the spotlight, as be as useful as say, an oven or microwave. Who knows, the day could come.