How Will 3D Printing Change Our Culture?

3d printing at a desk in an orange officeCan anyone really predict how, specifically, a certain technological development will change our society and culture? Not necessarily, but there are certainly plenty of people out there willing to guess.

3D printing has been the subject of such speculation since its inception, with manufacturers all over the world curious about how this technology designed to “make” things more easily will change their industry. 3D printing has passionate fans, but it also invites criticism from those who aren’t so sure about the implications it will have. Regardless of which side of the line you stand upon, it is important to be informed–especially for those students considering careers in manufacturing and technology.

MakerBot CEO Jonathan Jaglom, previous general manager for Asian operations at 3D printing company Stratasys, has an extensive history with professional 3D printing. His history with the technology leads him to believe that for both education and personal use, 3D printers will be important to our future.

In terms of education, Jaglom sees 3D printers as being on the same level as other technology: “I think the relation to the computer in the 80s where you had computers in the schools and later they showed up in homes is what we’ll see here,” Jaglom told InformationWeek. “The .edu space is huge. Over time, those students will grow and graduate, and I believe that eventually people will have printers at home.”

Jaglom also thinks that people’s home printers will impact how they purchase: “People will print at home with things they download from the Internet. If a piece of my glasses broke, I might purchase a file online and buy the part that broke and print it on my printer at home and go off with my glasses repaired.” Now, if this relationship with 3D printing were to really develop, that could certainly be beneficial for many consumers, but manufacturers may not feel the same way.

Other issues that could develop from at-home 3D printing could also impact our culture negatively, says Brian Krassenstein from 3Dprint.com. For example, if you can print an eyeglass part, can you also create a weapon like a firearm at home? If new composite materials for 3D printers hit the market, people could manufacture everything from illegal drugs to firearms to knives right in their own basement.

With the wide variety of materials available, there remains the chance that a gun could sneak onto an airplane, for example, without detection. Finally, intellectual property rights will become an issue: “While there hasn’t been a tremendous number of IP issues involving 3D printing quite yet, this doesn’t mean that it won’t become a major problem sometime in the near future.”

This is an issue that the entire world is concerned with: If you even just type “how will 3D printing–” into your Google search bar, the most common searches are “How will 3D printing change the world?” “How will 3D printing change manufacturing?” “How will 3D printing affect supply chain?” “How will 3D printing impact our lives?” It’s a massive question mark in the minds of many people, but only time will tell.

photo credit: Studio Desks: Sarah Kaiser via photopin (license)