Saturday, March 1, 2014

The 3D Printers Are Coming: Dig More Coal?

Some claim 3D printers will soon be as common in homes as computers. A better analogy would be the dishwasher or clothes washer since you only need one per house. One analyst calculated a homeowner could save $300 to $2,000 a year, all costs considered, printing rather than buying stuff. They calculated this for a basket of products that included an iPhone case, garlic press, razor, spoon holder and, strangely, a perogi mold. You just have to buy cartridges of plastics and metals for your 3D printer, and download (one assumes, pay for) the digital code for a specific product. 

Which business model wins? Odds are all of them will thrive. Eventually 3D printers will be found in every factory, classroom, hospital, restaurant, nearly every business, and maybe even most homes. Will the number of 3D printers shipped ever match the 120 million 2D printers now sold each year globally? Perhaps. There was a time not so long ago that no one had a printer. But even if 3D printers only hit a fraction of that scale, it will change a lot of things. But it won’t change the laws of physics.

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