3D Printing, Design and How it Will Affect the Web

Discover how 3D printing can spur design innovations and make manufacturing a process available even for home users.

There was a time when computers and printers were still seen as expensive equipment that could only be used in the workplace and universities. But then they became cheaper, and pretty soon you could find them in most households. The same can be said of digital cameras, design software, video cameras, and music players—now you have all these gadgets in a single smartphone. So it’s really not hard to imagine that 3D printing technology will follow the same path. It may be expensive now, but with enough interest and innovation, it may yet become a standard part of many households.

3D printers aren’t really printers. They’re more like manufacturing equipment except that it’s a “printer” that is producing a document or a photograph. This printer creates 3D items, such as cups and glasses, figurines, masks, and various shapes. Even artificial limbs can be “printed out.”

3D Printing and Design

There are many ways in which 3D Printing can revolutionise design. One key benefit is that it limits reliance on other manufacturing companies.

For example, in the old days you took a picture, and then you would have to have it developed in a dark room. But now, you can just print it yourself if you have a good printer. You don’t need a dark room, special equipment or training.

It’s the same thing with 3D printing. Let’s say you have a prototype of a design. You don’t have to use a manufacturing company to produce your prototypes. Just print it yourself.
It also allows for greater customisation. Since you have the design to print out, you can make tweaks to the design to fit your needs. Printouts of houses can be changed so that architects will know what the client wants. Artificial limbs and parts can be customised to each individual.

Finally, the availability of 3D printing for more people can really spur innovation. Just as the Internet has encouraged self-publishing through blogs and writers through fanfic forums, with home 3D printers it can mean a whole new generation of designers eager to see what they design for the world to marvel at.

3D Printing and the Web

The Internet excels at the transfer and distribution of information. Right now, the Internet is used to distribute articles, images, novels, songs, and movies. While they may be in digital format, it’s not really all that difficult to turn them into hard copies. You can print out the articles and images on paper, and you can even bind the novel pages into a book of your own. As for songs and movies, you just need to burn them on a DVD.

The same thing can be done with 3D designs. Let’s say you want to have a Yoda (of Star Wars) figurine. Someone else can send the design over the Internet to you, and then you can use a 3D printer to have it manufactured. In time, if you have your own 3D printer you can just print it out yourself. It’s that easy.

So you can see in 3D form the design you can only see in 2D on your monitor. You can receive digital data that includes houses, cars, faces, toys, or anything else you like. And that’s the power of combining 3D printing and the Internet—you don’t just have to share data, but now you can also share tangible things.