I’m sure that in the past few months you’ve seen that there has been a growing industry on the horizon that will have a ripple effect on both the manufacturing sector and consumer behavior. The device behind all this is the 3-D printer.
It all started with Charles Hull who had an idea of taking thin laminated layers, stacking them one on top of the other, and etching them with an ultraviolet light to create a shape. He won the European Inventor Award in 2006 for this revelation and there is still rapid development in the industry today. There are already many businesses entering the 3-D printing market and utilizing this technology for their own company. For example, GE has used these printers to help reduce certification costs. While creating lighter fuel injectors for their jets, GE realized that if it were to make that component with a 3-D printer, then it could combine as many as 20 steps into one.
However, it doesn’t stop at a big business. There have been many other creations that are more applicable to everyday use. Imagine having cost effective clothes that can be recycled and have a low carbon footprint. That’s exactly what these fabrics are capable of and are already being put to use. Stores such as Neiman Marcus have started selling 3-D printed items on its website. Shoes, medical models, acoustic guitars, and much more has been created using 3-D printing. While all this seems rather incredulous, it’s really just the beginning. With 3-D printing's usage becoming increasingly relevant in everyday life, it will only be a matter of time until it becomes a standard in the household as much as a computer.
Considering the future of the market of 3-D printing, it has already taken about 8 percent of the global market and it has been speculated that if this trend continues, then the value of this market could be worth $21.4 billion. Just last year, China invested $242 million in a seven-year research program to develop more sophisticated versions of this technology.
As for how other industries may make use of this technology is anyone's guess. However, there is no denying that Charles Hulls' invention has made people see him as a visionary much like Edison and Ford. It is certain that engineers have yet to tap the true potential of 3-D printers.