Local Motors, an American motor vehicle manufacturing company, developed the first 100% 3D printed electric car ‘Strati’ in 2014, which was constructed in less than 48 hours with a speed limit of 40 miles per hour. It was a baby step, but a very significant one for the automobile industry in terms of sustainability. And that is one of the many momentous achievements in the field of 3D printing technology. The scope of 3D printing is infinite for things like aircraft components, human organs, musical instruments, fashion accessories, and even for elements in the world of quantum physics, a great example of which would be the Ultra-High Vacuum Chamber. In the next decade or so, the 3D printing industry is expected to be fully equipped for production, for both hardware and software requirements. As the popularity grows, the number of smart 3D printing factories will increase. This technology is not just limited to large businesses or manufacturers. The numbers are astounding when it comes to 3D printing in everyday life for small businesses or even individuals who are artists. From tiny replicas of classrooms for small schools to miniatures and dioramas by artists, 3D printing is everywhere, even if it means being less than 1% of the global market size in manufacturing. That figure, in many ways, can be considered good news when we think in terms of scopes for technical upgrades and new career opportunities. There is plenty of room to create new ventures and a workforce. However, there is a rising concern for many skilled individuals and industries that 3D printing technology will put them out of business. The most evident is the textile industry which sees 3D printing technology as an immediate risk. But it is too early to be so pessimistic, especially when there are infinite possibilities yet to be explored. 3D printing technology is changing our world and we have all the reasons to believe that it is for the better.
MONEY AND MINDSET
More and more small business owners and skilled individuals need to come forward and adapt to 3D printing technology. They should realize its undeniable potential in creating new career paths. It is human nature to feel threatened by new advanced technology and eventually surrender to it. We have been doing that for thousands of years, and always found a way to make it work in our favor. There are many of us who blame AI technology for taking away our jobs and yet, from time to time, we seek refuge in AI-generated tools to get certain jobs done faster than we can. The point is that there always will be two sides to the same coin. Yes, of course, there will be a significant number of changes leading to job cuts and a few industries struggling to survive. And that is why we need to be prepared and focus on the unlimited scope and opportunities of 3D printing technology that is changing our world.
Imprimere’s Model 2156, is the most expensive 3D printer in the world. It is used for construction work and is worth 2.5 million dollars. A 3D printed superhero costume in Hollywood movies can cost somewhere between 35-40 million USD. So, yes this is an expensive technology. But then there are some 3D printed parts in almost every airplane that allow the cost-cutting from somewhere between 3 to 4 million USD for companies like Boeing. The focus should not be on how expensive this technology can be, the focus should be on how to be smart in manipulating its benefits. Many are still reluctant to the idea of adapting to 3D printing technology because of certain misconceptions and lack of awareness. The cost of setting up a 3D printing business, small or mid-size, can range from $1,000 to $100,000. So the good news is that anyone can start their own 3D printing business, as long as they have the expertise or they are in a position to hire one. And depending on how big or small their business is, they can start it from the comfort of their homes. The size of the investment will depend on the nature of the business and the type of 3D printing equipment. And then there will be expenses to consider for the utilities, infrastructure, and software. The scope and potential of 3D printing technology need to be recognized by both big and small sectors.
EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALL
The issue of gender inequality is not alien to the world of 3D printing technology. The engineering and manufacturing departments of most industries are still primarily dominated by men, even though there is no dearth of skilled and qualified female engineers and specialists. China is a perfect example of a country that is very advanced in the field of heavy engineering and manufacturing. And Chinese women have come a long way defying norms and challenging age-old traditions questioning the credibility of a woman in industries that are dominated by men. One such accomplished woman is making waves in the field of 3D printing technology. She is Naomi Wu, popularly known as Sexy Cyborg. According to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naomi_Wu, in 2017, she was listed by 3D Printer & 3D Printing News, as one of the 43 most influential women in 3D printing. She believes that usage of 3D printing technology in design principles in classrooms is a revolutionary development and promotes 3D printing as the next best thing in desktop publishing.
On the other side of the world, a USA-based organization Women in 3D Printing, which started just 7 years ago in 2014, has been in the news quite often for revolutionizing 3D printing and creating opportunities for women. Nora Toure is the founder of Women in 3D Printing and also the director for Sales and Service Factory Operations at Fast Radius. In an interview with https://www.tctmagazine.com/, she said, “It’s okay if you don’t have an engineering background, it’s okay if you don’t have 10 years experience in additive manufacturing for you to get started because none of us who are here now had that experience when we first started. That’s what made this industry and this technology move forward so quickly because we innovate and we have the diversity of thought in the same room.” And that summarizes the ethics and basic culture that they celebrate in their organization, which is a great example and inspiration for many.
FIVE BEST IDEAS FOR 3D PRINTING STARTUPS
- Composite Materials: There is a growing demand for 3D printing composite materials because of great benefits for the manufacturers, mostly involving lightweight parts with greater strength and durability.
- High-Speed Extrusion 3D Printing: Slow-speed is a major concern while using extrusion-based polymer 3D printers, especially during mass productions. There is a huge demand for high-speed extrusion 3D printers.
- Desktop 3D Printers: These are considered to be an important part of the industrial landscape because of enabling cheaper and faster production.
- Silicone 3D Printers: This technology of using silicone as a 3D printing material is fairly new but has a growing demand.
- Multi-material 3D printing: This technology is similar to single material additive manufacturing, with one big difference of using multiple materials at the same time to construct an object.
3D printing technology is changing our world right in front of our eyes. And there is a lot to look forward to. According to www.globenewswire.com, the 3D printing market size is globally estimated to reach USD 51.77 billion by 2026. Whether an industrialist or a small home-based business owner, everyone has the opportunity to be a part of this revolutionary change in the world of manufacturing.