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Embracing Change

Embracing Change

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Published by Robert Sugar
In 2012 we saw a leap in the capabilities of 3D printing, with multiple industries outlining plans to make commercial success of the technological breakthroughs. Now, in 2013, countries all around the world are injecting millions into 3D printing developments, recognising the potential economic repercussions of being left behind in the race for printing prestige.
In 2012 we saw a leap in the capabilities of 3D printing, with multiple industries outlining plans to make commercial success of the technological breakthroughs. Now, in 2013, countries all around the world are injecting millions into 3D printing developments, recognising the potential economic repercussions of being left behind in the race for printing prestige.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Robert Sugar on Aug 10, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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byRobertSugar
Embracing Change
In 2012 we saw a leap in the capabilities of 3D printing, with multiple industries outlining plans to make commercialsuccess of the technological breakthroughs. Now, in 2013, countries all around the world are injecting millions into 3Dprinting developments, recognising the potential economic repercussions of being left behind in the race for printingprestige.Yet each breakthrough has been met with a mixed response. There is growing concern amongst society at every leveltoward the possible dangers of handing the power of manufacturing over to the individual. The threats to commerce havebeen well voiced, but how significant are they? Is 3D printing really bringing an end to society? or is it simply the unknownbeyond change that we really fear?The first wave of domestic 3D printers is already on the market. The machines are capable of producing plastic productsfrom CAD blueprints downloadable off the internet or, for the design enthusiasts, created at home.Modern printers, such as
Cubify Cube 
and
Replicator 2 
, are crafting products of a far greater quality than their assemblyline rivals, and at a fraction of the cost to retail prices. Facts that the shopping sector has been quick to highlight asmarkers of its final financial ruin.But this is a tune we have heard before. Monopolisation by large corporations, the arrival of internet commerce; thesewere events also forecasted to be the end of retail, yet still a large percentage of shops have endured.That is not to say there haven't been changes. Software retail has mostly shifted online, as have several productdistributors, but that is not to say retail is dead. As 3D printing continues to emerge, what we are likely to see is simplyanother change to the system.There are countless opportunities for retailers to take advantage of the developing technologies. Stores could be alteredto act in ‘showroom' type capacities, with one off items replicated on the spot for the customer. These items could becustom altered to suit the individual's needs and tastes, creating a superior product to the mass production methods of today.What retailers often forget is that the majority of people have neither the will nor skill to design their own products. Weprefer to choose what we best like from the selection available.Of course, it is likely that pirated designs will be availablefor free download - thepiratebay.org has alreadyannounced plans to have such a section on the site forthis very purpose - but the desire to have the authenticitem will still remain. You can buy a fake Channelhandbag for a fraction of the cost at countries all aroundthe world, yet the fashion industry is thriving. It mightperhaps be a little preemptive to write off humanity'sdesire to shop just yet.There are also potential environmental benefits that 3Dprinting could offer society. The harmful output of CO2emissions from global shipping could be greatly reducedif products were to be made at the desired location. It wasestimated that in the UK last year, “Co2 emissions fromthe transport sector, at 116mt, accounted for just under aquarter of all CO2 emissions," according to agovernmentstudy. A statistic that needs to be greatly altered if countries are to meet the reduction targets required tooffset global warming.There is also an opportunity to make use of the colossal amount of waste plastic produced, if products, such as plasticbags, were designed to be reusable, in a broken down form, as part of the input chemicals used in 3D plastic printing.Rather than rejecting 3D printing, we should instead be looking at ways to best utilise the arrival of this seeminglyinevitable technology, and predict where the emerging markets will be. So lets take a look.One of the limiting factors with home replicators is the size of the product they can make, so it's likely we will see anincrease in the number of ‘flatpack schematics' available for download. Consumers could print off multiple parts andassemble them after, much like Ikea furniture. This could also be integral to the production of mixed-material objectswhen metal and ceramic printers become more domestically designed.
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