Recently, Dr. Vishal Sachdev guided my classmates and I through the history of 3D printing and the different methods of additive manufacturing. Though industrial and professional 3D printers have been used for prototyping for over 20 years, the industry has only recently targeted a different market segment: the consumer. Over the past few years, we have seen favorable projections for consumer 3D printing, indicating its shift from industrial prototyping to end-manufacturing final products.
Later in afternoon, we headed to the Illinois MakerLab, the world's first Business School 3D Printing Lab, for a hands-on session to see the Replicator 2x Makerbot in action. Needless to say, this workshop was one I was looking forward to the most. We had four designs to choose from: the bottle cap opener, heart clip, whistle, and lego block. Each took about 15-20 minutes to complete.
Check out the photo of what my classmates made!
As we experienced the 3d printing for ourselves, my friends and I wondered how to ease 3d printing into the daily lives of consumers. While not affordable to the household consumer yet, 3D printing could be provided by FedEx or UPS in the form of printing-as-a-service. With a fee, creations such as models, accessories and gadgets, could be designed and personalized. Think of all the possibilities for your family, friend, or partner’s future presents!
It was unique to experience the product for the week’s marketing case analysis and the hands-on aspect helped students realize the potential for the commercialization of personal 3D printers. In addition to rapid prototyping for businesses, the Makerbot technology has also created unique opportunities for manufacturing, marketing, distribution, and retail, as it produces yet another medium for design and creativity.
Even though Makerbot moved to a closed-source approach when the industrial 3d printing leader, Stratsys acquired it; I hope that Makerbot continues to hold its position as a lead advocate of consumer 3D printing. As the technology becomes faster and more affordable in the next couple of years, I believe that I too, will have the tools and technical know-how to create using a personal 3D printer.