I seem to have captured the interest of a number of readers with the posts I’ve created on 3D printing technology. The latest of these posts is Potential Commercial Uses for 3D Printing. The more I read about the technology, the more I think it really is more than just a fad. A lot of you think so too because you keep sending me articles on the topic (and you can keep them coming if you like, just make sure they’re substantial articles and not hoaxes).
One such story told about the use of 3D printing for horse shoes. Of course, the story goes into other uses for 3D printing, but the horse shoes really did capture my attention. First of all, the base material is titanium, which is exceptionally durable. Second, the horse shoes are pink. Just how they managed to make the titanium pink isn’t discussed anywhere in the article. I wish the author had researched that particular aspect a little more. (If anyone out there knows how its done, please let me know.)
Naysayers have been downplaying the practical nature of 3D printing technology. It’s true, early uses of the technology were gimmicks of a sort. However, more and more stories are coming out of practical (albeit pricey) uses for the technology. In most cases, the useful applications focus on the adaptable nature of 3D printing—the ability to create output that is custom designed for a particular application. You start with a basic design for a somewhat common item like a horseshoe or an ear, but then the computer makes it possible to create output with the precise dimensions required for a particular application. So, while I continue to doubt that printed food will take off as a common table item, printed medical or industrial applications will become more popular.
The main barrier to generalized use of 3D printing right now is price. Creating a one off design is still quite expensive. However, as developers create software that doesn’t require an expert to use and the price of the technology itself goes down, I can see new uses for 3D printing.
For example, a really practical use for the technology is printing shoes. Shoes that provide a custom fit for each person’s foot are practical because each person’s foot is different. Imagine being able to go to a shoe store, have your foot scanned, and come home with a pair of shoes guaranteed to fit your feet perfectly. So, what is good for the horse today, might be good for humans tomorrow .
Thinking about what the future might bring is interesting and 3D printing is most definitely something that will capture everyone’s attention. What do you see as a practical use for 3D printing? Keep in mind that it needs to be something that really does require custom output. Let me know what you think at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.