Three ways 3D printing is a transformative technology

How transformative is 3-D printing? There’s a lot of energy going into putting 3D printers in classrooms–which I am all for! Yet I have been pondering how we keep the focus on the inspirational end of what 3-D printing can do. Here’s a few ideas we might share with students:

1. 3D Printing is democratizing invention
Once upon a time if you were an inventor you either had to be wealthy, or you had to convince someone who was, to pour a lot of money into to creating  a testable prototype. Wider access and affordability is how 3-d printing is transforming the protoyping process of ideas. 3-D printers are becoming affordable and ubiquitous; Fab Labs and Maker Spaces allow designer-creators to now produce fairly high resolution inexpensive prototypes to test their concepts.

2. 3D Printing supports nimble and responsive design solutions
The industrial production model was all about scale; how much and how many people will want your invention? You had to find the sweet spot between cost and market size which usually meant thousands of a single version.

A viable idea was only viable if you could produce it cheaply enough to market it to the masses. Without scale the product might be too expensive or too niche. 3-d printing supports and enables entrepreneurs to work at small scales and to keep innovating in response to feedback instead of being locked into large long term timelines.

The 3D Printed Titanium bike is an example of design that is nimble and responsive, and a design that meets the unique needs of an individual. Which leads to the final way 3D printing is transforming design and invention…

3. 3D Printing enables customization
To me this is the most transformative aspect of 3-D printing, as it marks a complete departure from the old industrial model.  I am completely blown away by some of the ways 3D printing technology is helping people craft solutions to address individuals needs.

From medical applications like the Bespoke Hip Replacement to 3D Printed Shoes, custom solutions will continue to appear across diverse fields enabled by 3D printing.

As we are plugging 3D printer into schools it would be great to keep in mind some of the ways this technology is truly transforming people lives and ideas. This technology has a lot more potential than printing out a duplicate copy of a Harry Potter wand downloaded from <a href=”“>Thingiverse</a> How might we point kids towards the revolutionary end of the spectrum?



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