The 3D printing technology was invented in the last century but it was in the hands of companies with patents which, in a way, became barriers for further development. Additionally, manufacturers would rather not to adopt this rather new technology due to the high cost of machines and equipment. However, as the patent expired, related technologies were opened for manufacturers and designers. The development of manufacturing machine tools and applications has accelerated which result to the significant price drop of 3D printers. The advance of technology has made the application of 3D printing extend wider and wider. The market has also expanded from manufacturers and makers to the public.
From machine tools to house appliances
Chances have it that 3D printers will become more and more accessible to the public, for the price and function has been adapted for different target markets. That is, 3D printer not only produces products but also becomes a product for a larger range of consumers.
The desktop 3D printers were designed like house appliances instead of industrial machine tools. Consumers can make exactly what they wanted on their own, which pushed the customization to the extreme. With adequate design resources for consumers to print their own products, the power relationship between manufacturers and consumers will be altered. Consumers changed from choosing what they wanted to buy and what they wanted to make.
Nevertheless, where there is a demand, there is a supplier. Consumers still can't get rid of the role as consumers. Companies not only offer materials and machines but also websites where users can share their designs. Through open resources, people can get the designs they want or learn to develop their own designs.
Extension and evolution of technology and knowledge
Being regarded as printing press of the 20th century, the Internet delivers information faster and more extensively. The information that empowers the public through not only the information itself but the ideas and thoughts generated from them, and then transformed into world changing actions. The communication of knowledge has unconfined the knowledge which is processed by exclusive classes and domains to the public, which changed the structure of society.
The influence of 3D printing is not only opening a new era of manufacturing but forming new definitions toward manufacturing. What suppliers supplied are no longer goods but design models and technology. Consumers can be producers or suppliers themselves. However, the demand of 3D printers for household is not as high as expected. It is not about how accessible 3D printing for consumers but the willingness and the sense of necessity to produce products on their own.
It is said that 3D printing is the not only the new industrial revolution but also a social movement. Will economic and social structures be reframed, when the role of modern people who has been under the influence of mass consumption transformed? Will it thus change the uneven distribution of resources? Or will it urge the research and development on materials to save the future of human from resources crisis and devastating pollution?
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