3D Printing Opens Worlds of Possibility for Entrepreneurs

16 May

As the price of 3D printers continues to drop and sales increase, new services are opening up to anyone who has an idea.  Suddenly, the jumping through hoops process of creating a prototype have disappeared.  No longer do people have to suffer the lack of flexibility of manufacturing plants commit to buying 50,000 copies of their own invention just to get it to market.

Now, services like Shapeways can make your design idea a reality almost immediately.  Some of their applications simply make a black and white drawing into a 3D model, with no extra technical knowledge on your part required.  Shapeways will even sell your design for you in their online marketplace if you choose.  With 8 different materials to print with, the possibilities are abundant and everything from art and jewelry to machine parts and tools can become a reality.

A start-up called Kor Ecologic has designed a car using 3D printers that is aimed to be the world’s greenest car. Urbee, as it is named, is lightweight, aerodynamic and requires little material and labor compared to other cars manufactured today.  The car comes with a solar kit for garage rooftops to recharge the battery.  Someday, surely every city will have small companies making custom cars to order out of someone’s garage.  Urbee is just one example of how 3D printing will eliminate manufacturing competition overseas, re-localize economies, and even the playing field for small businesses and start-ups.

The Urbee from Shapeways is being called the "world's greenest car" Image: solidsmack.com

The Urbee from Shapeways is being called the “world’s greenest car”
Image: solidsmack.com

The wonder of this technology is not without its demons.  Recently, a group called Defense Distributed posted plans for printing a gun on a 3D printer online.  The plans had over 100,000 downloads before the U.S. State Department ordered the group to remove the plans.  Such actions and other thoughts have put 3D printing in the hot seat for ethical debate.  Is a system that is easier to exploit mean there will be more abuse than what we experience now? It is hard to say.  Surely, the benefits to social equality and sustainability will outweigh any negative effects the technology could have.  New technology is always met with challenges and hurdles, but one thing is for sure: 3D printing will change our world.

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