3D printing is being described as potentially game-changing a development as the steam engine or telegraph. Can a device that prints three-dimensional objects really be compared to such revolutionary inventions?
According to experts, 3D printing has the potential to be on the same level and to create a new industrial revolution. It might be hard to wrap your head around the idea of printing out a 3D object from the printer sitting on your desk. While the technology is currently available, it's still in its infancy, but experts believe it will only be a matter of time before we're all printing 3D objects.
According to Olivier Olmo, operational director of Switzerland's EPFL research institution, he believes there will be a 3D printing revolution.
"There are still limits imposed by the technology available today, but I'm certain that within 10 or 20 years, we'll have a kind of revolution in terms of the technology being available to everyone," Olmo says.
The way that 3D printing currently works is a user creates the object on a computer or scans a real object; the object is then cut into two-dimensional slices that are then fed into the printer. The 3D printer then is fed materials like plastic, carbon or metal to build the object. The user can choose how flexible or solid the object will be and can even add moving parts.
According to Simon Jones, a technology expert from DLA Piper, "In theory, anything that we have today can be produced through 3D printing. It may just alter manufacturing as we know it."
Experts also believe that 3D printing can be used in the medical field, where objects like customized screws for broken bones can be made to perfectly fit a patient's body. It is believed that by creating customized objects that match a person's anatomical characteristics, it would cause less deterioration for the patient than the current, traditional way these types of objects are pre-made.
We have already seen a major tech company embrace 3D printing. Nokia debuted the "world's first live social 3D printing experience" when it teamed up with Makerbot to allow consumers to create and print a 3D case for the Nokia Lumia 820 and 520 smartphones. Users can create a 3D case and use a Makerbot Replicator 2 printer to print out the case for their smartphone. Check out the video below to see a Nokia smartphone case being made on a 3D printer.
We certainly like instant gratification as a society and we're not that far away from the day when we'll actually be printing 3D objects from our home computers. The limits are endless to what this technology can do, and if it's as amazing as it sounds, it could certainly be a game-changing advancement.