The future is already here, it’s just not very evenly distributed said William Gibson. He said it in the past. Saying that, even if he said it right now by the time it hit our ears, was processed in our brain and understood by us, here would already have changed and become a past event.
Something already here that is the future is 3D printing. The idea behind it is not new. Design something on a computer, carve it out using a machine. Fran already does this with foam and lasers for making blocks and shapes. Now however we have 3D printers costing less than $999 that can create small plastic devices. Think of the ability to print the toy part of a kinder egg. Print or create the parts from plastic and then assemble them. All at home.
So the future as I see it is we use a design program to create a 3D model and then we print it off. Plastic, paper, carbon fibre or metal. Kodak is dead and many print companies are dying off, I’m surprised nobody started pushing their companies into 3D printing.
There’s going to be massive issues with piracy too or will it even be piracy? A camera phone will easily see all the dimensions of a product, import it into your modeling software and you press copy. Go to the PirateBay.org and download designs of products and away you go. There is no doubt that movies and music are going to be the minor categories on a future PirateBay. As I said, will it be piracy though?
Look at the ideas behind Open Street Map where organisations map locations and share the data for free. Maybe people will give away their own designs of products for free and route around copyrighted goods? Who’ll be the Napster of 3D printing? Once Napster was out there, it changed everything and this too shall happen for 3D Printing.
The clever companies will have stores where you can buy and look at their products and sites where you go online and buy the design for the product where you print it off at home and of course customise it too. Every pair of shoes customised. Imagine Tumblr or Pinterest and all the amazing styles on that and then crossed with the Pirate Bay. Maybe Etsy will turn into a site that highlights great designs and you press the print button next to them to get a copy?
This post here from Jonathan Macdonald goes through all the possiblities and the disruption 3D printing will cause. Think of all the new supporting industries though. The raw ink or whatever going into them will be as big a utility as water or gas. The printer manufacturers will be like fridge makers today.
I’m just thinking about all the lawsuits right now in the mobile industry and the value of patents. Google bought Motorola for billions and patents was one reason they did this. Old telecoms companies, long since dead are influencing the mobile market now because of patents they created. Imagine patenting not just 3D designs but the processes and tech to create 3D designs. I think you might be able to buy your own bank from that. I’d rather people gave away this IP though. A wise person would look into current patents and see who owns them. You can be there are longterm thinkers already bankrolling R+D in this area.
Robots are coming too. The future today sees us having Robot Pebbles too. But that’s for another day…
“Imagine patenting not just 3D designs but the processes and tech to create 3D designs. I think you might be able to buy your own bank from that.”
You could become the world’s biggest philanthropist – have each 3D printer connected to the internet and charge 1c each time a complete pattern is printed. Donate all the money to the 3rd world.
I believe thingiverse.com is already the de facto “Napster of 3D printing”, although there are a few more commercially oriented rivals like Shapeways.
As exciting as this is, there won’t be as much money to be made because the technology is in its very nature peer-to-peer. Check out the RepRap, it’s a 3D printer that can print most of its own components. So if you want one you just need a friend with a RepRap, not some central company. Patents for 3D shapes will eventually be redundant, because it would be literally impossible to police their usage.
Here’s a recent article on forbes that might be worth reading http://www.forbes.com/sites/andygreenberg/2012/04/05/how-a-geek-dad-and-his-3d-printer-aim-to-liberate-legos/
Where a guy has started to print his own connector bits between lego, duplo and other building bricks.
It would be cool if you could find an open printer in a library where you could bring your designs to print them out.