Wednesday, April 1, 2015

3D Printers Go Mainstream

In the next 5-10 years I think it will be common place to have 3D printers in the home and to have more advanced 3D printers at businesses printing everything from trinkets to replacement parts.

Instead of having to stock thousands of parts an auto parts store could simply have some 3D printers that can print parts containing plastic all the way to tempered metals. Even as advanced as printing circuit boards. In a home a simple 3D printer that can product plastic pieces for toys, trinkets, parts, etc.

The uses are endless, here are a few examples I came up with:

- Installing a new appliance, instead of including 5 different parts depending on how you install the appliance it could simply come with QR codes to scan where you can download the exact parts you need and print them. You could even customize the color and size of the part. This would reduce waste and make the install more precise.

- Working on your car and you need a special retainer clip. This has happened to me and they are cheap but I have to drive down to the auto parts store to get one. What if I could go online and print a few in minutes. No wasted time or gas.

- Toy broke and it just needs an arm. In the future toys should have a code to scan on them where you can print replacement parts online. Just go to the manufactures website and put in the code from the toy. an hour or so later you have your replacement part and the toy is as good as new.

- 3D printers might even be able to repair cracked or broken items. Just place an item in a printer that can scan the item and patch or fill in the problem areas.

- Custom create ergonomic mice, handles, grips, inserts, and countless other custom items that fit your hands, feet, whatever on your body. Just imagine taking a few pictures or a 3D scan of your hand to print a customized mouse body that perfectly fits your hand. A vendor could sell the internal pieces of a mouse, send you to their website where you can upload a 3D scan of your hand and in return download a 3D model to print the perfect mouse for you.

This technology is rapidly evolving and will soon be mainstream. One of the main issues with 3D printing is what you print. You need a 3D model to print from and either you have to make it yourself or you have to download it. There needs to be money involved otherwise people are not going to spend their time making these 3D models for download.

I am not the biggest fan or DRM (Digital Rights Management) but in this respects I think there needs to be some sort of DRM like system that allows someone to create a 3D model, sell it, and then protect its usage.

Lets say for example you want to print a cool new toy for your kid and there is a 3D model for $39 online. You go online, pay for the model and print it. A few hours later your kid has a new toy. But what is to prevent you from making 40 of these or a 100? What is to prevent you from sharing this with your friends?

I suggest a DRM type platform where the printer itself has a standard it follows to only allow the product to be printed how ever many times you paid for it if there is DRM on the model. The seller would embed a serial number for that download and the printer would redeem that serial number when the print is successful.

Obviously with any DRM they are never 100% secure .But it would keep honest people honest and those that spend a lot of time developing the toys, parts, etc would be much more likely to be paid.

3D printing is already a revolution that is in it's infancy. Mark my words it will be as common as having a microwave or a TV. Everyone will have a 3D printer someday and there will be less and less trips to the store for parts and pieces.

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