Although the technology of 3-D printing has been around for about 30 years, it hasn’t really trickled down into the personal domain, until now. With the cost of such devices dipping below the $2,000 threshold, 3-D printers are finally becoming accessible commodities, and due to the fact that they can self-replicate (more on that later), their maintenance costs only involve the material they use, and the electricity that it takes to run them. If the role of computers, in both the Occupy-Wall-Street-Protests, and Arab Spring, is any indication of the impact that technology has in real world affairs, 3-D printing may very well serve as a “support mechanism,” towards the next big social change.
1. 3-D Printers Can Create Just About Anything. The beauty behind 3-D printing is the fact that it is only limited to the size of an object, and the CAD instructions that it receives. The time it takes to create these items certainly is an obstacle now; however, given the cumulative progression of technology, we should have rapid 3-D printers within a decade.
How does this factor into a political movement? The first, and most obvious answer is the decrease in reliance on other countries, and other states. Every citizen could, in essence, manufacture common household tools, dishware, furniture, and so on. This decrease in imported goods essentially untangles countries from the entrapment that is inherent in trade treaties, and allows for smaller forms of government to more easily break away from their state and federal counterparts. Additionally, large printers could support a community’s entire infrastructure, without reliance on the manufacturing capabilities of federal entities.
2. 3-D Printing Is Green. 3-D Printing is about as environmentally friendly as it gets, when living in an industrialized world. All goods are produced locally, eliminating the pollution caused by ships, trucks, and trains, that deliver products to a consumer; and because the product is created where it will be consumed, there is no waste from packaging, public-facing-stores, or warehouses, that are needed to maintain today’s production supply chain. Should a part on the printer break, a person would only have to grab a replacement part that was printed before the damage occurred, or go to his neighbor for a loaned part. Furthermore, 3-D printers allow a user to “re-melt,” items, to be used again, thus creating a closed circuit recycling program. In essence, each user could know that a unit of plastic or metal would last him, and his family, for years to come.
3. 3-D Printing Cuts Out Middle-Men, And Promotes A More Capitalistic Playing Field. 3-D Printing allows inventors and innovators to market their ideas directly to consumers. CAD files could be limited in their amount of uses before becoming dormant and unusable. A virtual marketplace would spring-up (ala iTunes), where users would receive free “base products,” such as utensils, tools, and containers, but would pay for premium CAD’s such as chairs, toilets, and tables. Designers would be in high demand for mass consumption, and open-source groups would cater to more niche users; start-ups would be just as competitive as established corporations, because of the ability for everyone to sell their wares in a common digital market.
Of course, 3-D Printing will, invariably, lead to this:
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