January 24, 2013
Printers. We love them. We hate them. It seems that there is no in-between. One minute it works, and the other, we’re walking into a field with our office buddies to reenact a scene from Office Space. Whatever your qualm with printers may be, there’s something new on the rise. You’ve probably heard of it, but they’re the next big thing—3-D printers. That’s right, 3-D. Nothing is cool unless it’s 3-D, even printers.
All joking aside, such sci-fi technology is no longer out of reach for the average consumer. Universities are already using these types of printers to create new chemicals in the lab. Engineers have already created a race car—a complete and life-sized race car, which means assembly lines may become a thing of the past according to Adam Piore with Discover magazine in the January 2013 issue.
Awesome? Yes! How cool would it be to purchase a bike online, hit the print button, and there you go; you’ve got yourself a new 1950s style Schwinn bicycle? Or, how about those sweet sunglasses you’ve been dying to purchase but haven’t because they’re from Switzerland and for some reason would take three months to be delivered by mail?
While I’m standing here with my mouth gaping and watering to have this sweet technology, I also must wonder what our opinions of printers will become as 3-D printers come to fruition in the family home. First, there will be material cost. Maybe there would be a type of amorphous material you could purchase that could be turned into various things. Or maybe, you’ll have to buy lots of different materials depending on what you’re making. Either way, even if the cost of the printer itself isn’t high, the materials to make items will be. But how much will we save from the inventors or companies by just purchasing the plans to make the objects rather than the companies having to acquire the materials and then have them pay workers to perform the manual labor to make the items?
The largest trade-off for having to wait in line to purchase the item in a store is waiting for it to print. According to the Huffington Post’s article by Sruthi Ramakrishnan and Neha Alawadhi, these printers take a very long time to print even the smallest of objects—four hours for something the size of a soda can. As with all technology, it will grow and change. Right now, a 3-D printer may not be the most economical purchase of 2013, but as we continually improve the technology, these printers may become a household commodity. The trends are usually the same, technology gets improved and prices go down, quality rises and then something new comes along.
But after 3-D printers, what do you think is next?