3D printing is no news, since we had 3D printing for several years now. What is new, and growing, is the application areas. Digital Industry, which we are working on at EIT Digital, or Industry 4.0 as it is known by many in Europe, will make pervasive use of 3D printing.
This can be seen as a way to manufacture objects that would be impossible to manufacture in any other way (some parts of aircrafts and cars are already done in this way), or that are cheaper to manufacture in this way (particularly in prototyping) or that would allow manufacturing taking place “outside” of a factory, in a department store, at home or by some professionals.
The 3D printer itself can have different shapes and functionalities, and there is a growing number of companies manufacturing them, like Fabtotum, a scale up we helped at EIT Digital to grow its production and market through partnership. As 3D printing becomes more and more pervasive and addresses broader and broader fields of applications they will become “tools” in many professions and the soft side of these tools (including the manufacturing of special inks, the scanning of a component to be duplicated by the printer, the rendering of the object before it gets printed and its simulation in a virtual –cyber- environment) will require new skills and open the door to new professions.
Down the lane, I won’t be surprised to see food, drugs, toys, prosthetics, jewelry, houses and shops… being 3D printed. Each area is open to creativity and subject (in many cases) to legislation that has yet to be born.
Professionals will rely on third party skill to provide the inks and the software that will enable the 3D printer, sometimes seeking creative skills, other times science material knowledge, other systemic knowledge. A 3D printed object may require different kinds of components, the embedding of sensors inside it, like a prosthetic with a monitoring sensor or an electronic interface to other components or to the environment. In a way a 3D printer may become a sophisticated assembling factory requiring a variety of competences to operate, most of them harvested in the cyberspace. There will be specialists on demand for specific 3D printing tasks, and there will be gurus to address and “invent” solutions leveraging on a broad knowledge in the variety of areas I outlined, people knowing what could be possible, and how to work around the impossible to make it happen…
An exciting area to be part of!