The 3D Printing Revolution

Something incredible is happening in the world right now. As suggested by author Chris Anderson’s latest book title, we’re undergoing a “New Industrial Revolution.”

Individuals – entrepreneurs, inventors and makers – are gaining the ability to manufacture objects on their own, in turn becoming their own custom factories. At the same time, manufacturers are able to create the adventurous, one-of-a-kind products that would have previously been the domain of individual artisans. This blurring of the lines between individuals and manufacturers is largely due to the increasing availability and affordability of 3D printers—and it stands to benefit both groups.

The cost of desktop 3D printers has come down in cost dramatically in the past few years. Professional 3D printing machines used to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, putting them out of reach of amateurs. Today, almost anyone can own a MakerBot Replicator 2 for around $2200 and bring a 3D model into the physical world for pennies.

This increasing affordability and accessibility has facilitated the rise of the “maker community:” a rapidly growing community of do-it-yourselfers interested in metalworking, woodworking, engineering, robotics, and anything else that allows them to “make” something cool. This allows today’s hobbyist to easily grow into tomorrow’s successful small business.

Take the case of entrepreneur Janne Kyttannen, who saw the potential of 3D printing more than a decade ago, when he was a student at errit Rietveld Academy in the Netherlands. Shortly after graduation, he ounded Dutch design brand Freedom of Creation. Today, the company’s trendy design
objects, furnishing complements, lighting and accessories—all of which are produced via 3D printers—grace the interiors of luxury hotels and museums around the world.

In a recent interview on CNN International, Autodesk CEO Carl Bass shared, “In the short term, we see people taking advantage of [the lower cost of 3D printers] by building very special things—it’ll be the kind of manufacturing that is really high value, but low volume. So people will use it for prosthetic devices or hearing aids. But over time, it will get to a point where it’s more massively available and morphs into another way of manufacturing.”

As 3D printing continues to grow and become a part of the mainstream, the gap between individual artisans, hobbyists, and entrepreneurs on one side, and large manufacturers on the other side, will continue to close.

Stay tuned for more on 3D printing next week.


Watch Autodesk CEO Carl Bass discuss the 3D printing revolution with Chris Anderson at The Churchill Club.