3D Printing – Fad or Practical Tool?

For a while, it seemed as if 3D printing would take the world by storm and that we’d all have 3D printers in our homes pumping out anything we needed. However, since my last article on the topic, 3D Printing Done Faster and Better, the number of articles about 3D technology have decreased noticeably. In fact, the trade press has been a lot quieter on the topic, which makes some people wonder whether 3D printing is actually a fad. The problem with much of the new technology that becomes available is that people initially think there are all sorts of uses for it, but then discover that those uses aren’t practical or that they’re too expensive, and they end up dropping the technology (rather than revise their vision).

You can still find some fanciful uses for 3D printers. For example, the Washington Post recently ran an article recently ran an article on how 3D printers can change the presentation of food. The idea is that you really can have the food presented in a manner that is both pleasing and unique. The idea is to make food in unusual shapes, sizes, and colors, so that it appeals to a larger group of people. However, the original vision was to combine ingredients to actually make the food—this application scales the idea down to a more practical level.

It also looks like 3D printing will see practical use for various higher end needs that aren’t quite professional, but are out of reach of the home owner. Think of printers like the da Vinci 1.0 Pro 3D as a middle ground for experimenters (see the ComputerWorld review). The price is out of reach for the general consumer, but definitely within the range for experimenters and early adapters. Again, the vision is scaled down, more practical, and infinitely more usable.

The military is also using 3D printers to perform practical tasks. Having been a sailor myself, I can tell you without reservation that I would have loved to have been able to print some of the items I needed. Waiting to get back to port before I could even order parts meant serious delays and downed equipment. Imagine having the ability to print a new drone or other needed items while out to sea, rather than waiting for a supply ship or in port visit.

Of course, the medical and other high end uses for 3D printing continue to evolve. For example, 3D printed hands are becoming ever more usable. Expect to see all sorts of new medical uses for 3D printing evolve because humans are notoriously difficult to fit. I envision a day when it becomes possible to print just about any body part needed in the right size, color, shape, and characteristics. New printing strategies may even make the use of organ replacement drugs a thing of the past.

The point is that 3D printing is expanding, growing better, becoming more practical, and still evolving. Yes, you might eventually have one in your own, but don’t expect it to happen anytime soon. Practical uses for 3D printing are becoming more common. Until 3D printing becomes a must have technology for industry, science, military, medical, and other industries, the price won’t come down enough for the home user. To answer my initial question, 3D printing is becoming more practical tool than an interesting new technology, which is why you hear a lot less about it today. Let me know your thoughts about 3D printing at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Management Lessons from the Military

Having spent 10 years in the Navy, I know that military life can provide some benefits that translate well into civilian life. Enforced discipline, often described as training, does create an environment in which you can learn how to perform tasks more efficiently and with greater success. The training isn’t always comfortable, but the feeling of success when the training is over is always amazing. That’s why I went through the Ten Workplace Lessons From the Military slideshow on Baseline with great interest. It actually does help you understand how someone who has had military training can provide significant benefit to an organization of any sort.

From a personal perspective, I credit my military training with giving me drive and ambition required to write books and to also work through many of the issues in self-sufficiency that I have. The techniques that I learned in the service have translated well into creating an environment where I can work productively and ensure good results. The organizational and planning skills I gained in the service still serve me well today. I’m not saying that I succeed every time—far from it, but I have learned to keep trying until I find a way to succeed.

My service was quite some time ago, so I can’t speak to the training that the military receives today with any authority. However, judging from the content of the slideshow, I’d say that the military still values the kinds of things that helped me become the sort of person I did after I left the service. Things like learning to see what is important in a list of to do items, and what isn’t, is part of the military way of doing things. You never have enough time to complete a to do list in the service—prioritizing is a must.

The main reason I’m writing this post today is to support my fellow veterans. When you hire a vet, you’re getting someone with a broad range of experiences that you simply can’t get outside of the military. You get someone who had the drive to complete tasks under fire and will certainly have the same drive to complete tasks for your organization. Let me know your thoughts on the military method of management at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.