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03 September 2012

The democratization of 3D printing

I like big box retail stores as much as anyone. I can go there and see what new products are available: A new ceramic vase or plastic storage bin or even a cast iron door mat with a train on it. These are all out there. If it is at my retailer, it is surely at one near you. That is all about to change.
Somewhere in an ivory tower a retail wizard is choosing which product to order ten-thousand copies of and which stores to send them to. Multiply this by all the retail wizards in the world and there is a process of selection by an elite few. That is okay, but it assumes that these few are indeed wizards capable of predicting the artistic tastes of the world. What if you could pick and choose before anything is manufactured, and then you could post your own ideas for other people to select from? Popularity drives production from the consumer back. Wouldn’t that be amazing!
That is coming to our world soon. In just the past few decades there have been companies building and selling fabrication devices that can print in plastic. And there are all types of plastic materials to choose from. Some rise from a fluid bath like something from a Sci-Fi movie and others just melt colored dots from a plastic fiber cable. The end result are devices and software that allow a machine to take a 3D file and generate whatever you might need.
Once that becomes relatively common place, then the 3D files themselves become the commodity. Hoarding, trading and rating them will demonstrate a democratic way of finding what you need. Just follow the popularity and ratings. The end result are manufacturing decisions made by the public, for their own use. No more wizards in the tower… UNLESS… they have really magical 3D files.

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