Photo courtesy of Kyle Pearce via Flickr.
Food can be 3D printed. Body parts and houses can be 3D printed. Objects can be teleported through 3D printing, and guns can be assembled out of nothing.
Since its patenting in 1986, and especially in recent years, 3D printing has reached a new level of popularity and promise. But as with many cases of “the next big thing” hype, we’ve yet to see the sort of 3D printing revolution predicted only two years ago.
So, what’s the hold up? If 3D printing is becoming more affordable, as per predictions, shouldn’t the printers be on the road to becoming household staple?
Here are four roadblocks keeping 3D printing from widespread commercial adoption, and what needs to change for it to happen in a disruptive way.
1. The barrier to entry is high
Cost-wise, 3D printers have made long strides to reach a point in which a person can feasibly buy one for less than a TV or a sofa. In fact, there are numerous printers available for under $1,000.
The kicker? Even hundreds of dollars is a bit too much of a barrier for something that doesn’t serve a unique purpose or fill a void in livelihood. That is to say, people need a TV for entertainment, but don’t need a 3D printer to make things they can more easily purchase.
2. 3D printing still requires knowledge, skill, and time[contextly_auto_sidebar id=”B7eA8pcLVDznaLzIsZqTzAhkQj6nmEmx”]Lots of people are crafty DIYers, but the level of knowledge needed to handle a 3D printer requires a bit more than knitting theory. Specifically, 3D printers will appeal to designers and technologically savvy makers who are motivated to devote the time and thought necessary to create new things.
Though there are more makers out there than you might think, not all will need or want a 3D printer. And while it’s true that 3D printers have been simplified — enough that you can send a model from your smartphone to your printer — until it’s as simple to use, and takes as little effort as a microwave, it won’t become a home essential.
3. It’s not yet the best and most affordable way to get things
Products that “pay for themselves,” so to speak, tend to see the most success commercially. Though we may not be too long before this is the case for a 3D printer, right now the fact remains that it makes more sense for people to buy mass-produced items then to print them at home.
Many predict that this dynamic will shift dramatically as we enter a decentralized industrial revolution, through which people can print customizable items without hassle, high cost, or middlemen.
4. They’re more practical in the business world
Lastly, 3D printing, while amazing, currently holds much more promise outside of the household. It doesn’t make total sense for you to have one yet, but for certain industries, it’s already a game changer.
These include medicine, through which 3D printing can “bioprint” living tissue; aerospace, which is printing lighter, cheaper parts more swiftly than ever; automotive, for printing customizable car parts; not to mention radical applications in architecture, food, fashion, and more.