At Mindtree, we constantly work with clients around emerging business trends and explore smart new ideas to help them thrive in the digital economy. One such raging trend at the moment is 3D Printing.
At first, I couldn’t see the point in 3D printing but with more and more research, I realized that this trend could in fact transform the society like no other technology. If we finish a packet of safety pins today, we go to the store and buy a new packet of fifty safety pins. In the future, 3D printing might allow us to print just one. It seems like a fairly trivial example until you start to think of other simple things that could be printed. There are quite a few other technologies, from steam power to the internet that have transformed society enormously, whether 3D Printing will create the same magic, remains to be seen.
Brands are driving consumer experience as part of their experiential marketing initiatives. Converse for example lets consumers design and 3D Print their sneakers in just two hours. 3D Printing is also reshaping the medical and the dental industry as it allows in-house production of dental implants and prosthetic limbs, cutting down the delivery time from weeks to a few hours. Amazon and Staples have dedicated a section of their sites to sell 3D printers which is an indication of 3D printers finding a way in everyday businesses and homes. NASA has been working on producing 3D printers that could print good tasting food. Now can you imagine a hostel dorm without one of those? For corporations this means elimination of language & time barriers with designers, enhanced creativity, overnight (and less expensive) prototyping and shorter product design cycles.
3D printers used to cost hundreds of thousands, then tens of thousands, and now just about one thousand. In the next couple of years, the prices are said to drop to about $500. For consumers, it would mean turning their ideas into tangible reality. How far could this go? Well it could turn existing manufacturing models upside down. Imagine going to a local electronics store and printing a new electric bulb you need, on demand! Meaning these stores will have to stock designs instead of parts, giving do-it-yourself a completely new definition. Ever considered printing your favorite toys, clothes, cars or even a 3D printer?
Notably, one of the definite appeals in 3D printing is the potential of a sense of autonomy, choice and satisfaction. These will definitely be the factors driving this technology.