Potential Commercial Uses for 3D Printing

A technology can have significant appeal without becoming a mainstream technology. In my post, Thinking About 3D Printing Technology, I discuss some of the implications of 3D printing, including it’s use for accessibility. The 3D Printing Technology Safety post discusses the associated safety concerns with using the technology. However, both viewed 3D technology as just that—technology. In order for a technology to make a significant inroad, it must have a critical mass and one of the means to obtain that is to make a commercial product.

There aren’t any such products today. You can’t go to a store, order a new set of plates, and watch them print out before your eyes. That sort of thing could happen someday, but not quite today (imagine a set of plates where each family member has their picture in the bottom). I recently came across two articles, though, that hold promise for the future.

The first is quite practical and something I foresee being printed in the home, a sweater. The sweaters aren’t available yet, but the article’s author is looking for people to invest in her idea (at $189.00 a pop). The sweaters are supposed to become available by September 2014, which isn’t that far away when you consider the time required to obtain some new technologies. I’m expecting these first efforts to be not quite perfect, but they’ll improve rapidly. The advantage of a printed sweater is that you can create it to match your body perfectly.

The second is an interesting new car named the Urbee. Not everything in the car is printed, but from what the article has to say, a vast majority of it is. The advantage to a designer is that you can print car parts a lot faster than you can build them using other techniques, so it becomes possible (and economical) to play with a car’s design more so you can optimize it. The vehicle looks a bit odd, but most people could probably get used to it. What’s most interesting about this car though is that it gets 300 mpg with a top speed of 70 mph.

These two commercial products are probably just the tip of the iceberg. It would be interesting to find out if there are most such products in the works. Even better, having a crystal ball so you can see what’s going appear in the future would be amazing. For now, I’ll simply be happy to hear about the uses for 3D printing technologies that you’ve seen. Let me know at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.