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3D Printing Sparks NeoIndustrial Revolution

Brian Hicks

Written By Brian Hicks

Posted March 13, 2012

3D printing is prone to become the next trillion-dollar industry, facilitating the next wave of entrepreneurial enterprises and ending the primacy of large-scale manufacturing leviathans.

Originally conceived in the late 1980s, 3D printing has started to gain momentum in recent years spurring an organic growth spurt of upstart companies.

Implementing a laser or extruder moving along X, Y, and Z axis points, 3D printers construct objects at an atomic level making the limitations of 3D printing virtually endless.

Large scale 3d printers are currently being used to build houses, while the military is currently enlisting the technology to resupply parts for fighter jets aboard carriers in combat zones.

Organovo, a San Diego-based firm headed by CEO Keith Murphy, has aspirations of using the technology as a medical tool. 

“We currently produce organic tissues grown from cell samples, which can be used as a human analog for pharmaceutical drug discovery and development.”

Someday soon, quite possibly within the next couple of years, companies like Organovo will have the ability to collect stem cells from blood drawn from an adult. Then, using a specialized 3D printer, construct polymeric scaffolding in the shape of an organ or tissue needing to be replicated and literally grow a kidney, heart, or lungs within a matter of days with zero chance of rejection, circumventing the need to have patients wait for donor organs on expansive waiting lists.

Bespoke Innovations, headed by Scott Summit, has begun using 3D printers to create some of the most modern and viable prosthetic limbs ever designed. The limbs require less materials than their predecessors and come out of the printer completely assembled, despite their many intricate moving parts, with a cost of about $5000-$10000. 

The technology has gotten so advanced that 3D printers are now going on the commercial market and range between $1,000 to $5,000.

Commercial 3D printers have the ability to construct anything the owner programs into it, from coffee makers, t-shirts, or even finite electrical circuits.

Most importantly, 3D printing has rendered economies of scale obsolete, reinstating the ability to produce high quality products for relatively low overhead costs back to the individual, something which was lost during the industrial revolution.

It is an inlet to competition for the common folk, taking away the hegemony of large multinational corporations protected by governments and creating a more democratized market.

The process is axiomatic to transformative innovations. Whenever barriers to entry are torn down, the crowd always pours in. 3D printing will do for manufacturing what the printing press did for publishing and what the internet has done for digital content.

No clearer example exists of the 3D printers democratizing ability than Bre Pettis and his team of engineers, who are building the world’s first sub-$1000 3D printer, called the open source Markerbot.

Brent has begun building his first prototype out of 0.33mm thick molten ABS plastic, building for $1,000 something that just five years ago could not have been built for anything less than $125,000.

With millions of people utilizing this revolutionary technology it appears the reign of companies like “General Electric”, “Nike”, and “Sony” are quickly coming to an end.

Until next time,


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