Wouldn’t it be great if you could custom build personalized products right in your home simply by downloading a digital file, editing it to make it personalized to you and your family and then sending the file to your 3D printer for the product to be produced for you right in your home? Well, that is what 3D printing can do today.
Since 2003 the production of industrial 3D printers have been commercialized and the prices have been steadily dropping to the point now that you can purchase a home version for an average of $1299.00. Or if your technical you can assemble one for as low as $399.00 (not including all of the printing materials you need to make a product). I know it may sound a little out there but if you recall the early Star Trek shows where they would put a product into a black box and replicate it ( The “Replicator” ) or they would just ask the computer to produce something for them and it would materialize in the black box. Now fast forward 30 years late to the 21st century and this is now possible at surprisingly affordable price points.
Trend: Move from Mass Production to Mass Customization
Think about the implications of this on a mass scale. When this technology becomes truly mainstream and is available in every household it will be possible to custom produce many of the products we buy now which are mass produced off-shore in places like China right in your living room. American innovation can be kept on-shore from concept to design to production. This 3D technology or additive manufacturing as it is also called will truly disrupt entire industries and manufacturing ecosystems around the world. I know I may be sensationalizing it a bit based on where the technology is today but at the rate that technology is accelerating our advances in science, medicine, healthcare , manufacturing, communications etc.. it is not too far fetched to think about the disruptive impact of this technology breakthrough impacting our lives within the next 5-10 years.
Early Investment Opportunities
Many of us are always searching for the “Next Big Thing” well I propose that this is it and it is here today. If you are an investor I would look closely at the enabling technology providers that are taking the lead today and put your money behind the ones that have market leadership, patents and market making abilities. I am not a financial advisor so do your own homework but there are companies out there today such as Dassault Systemes ( http://www.3ds.com/) , a French company that are making the computer aided design (CAD) systems for these 3d Printers that is positioned as one of the key companies to watch in this space.
Life Changing Health Impacts
The impact of the 3D production capabilities is being felt in areas as diverse as architectural design and modeling to entire car manufacturing with companies like Urbee who are producing their safe, environmentally friendly cars with 3D Printers. The impact is also being felt in the Medical/HealthCare industry; recently there was an unprecedented medical operation allowing an 83-year-old woman to bypass risky reconstructive surgery by fitting her mouth with a 3D-printed jaw . See the excertp summary and video below from DigitalTrends.com
“Last year a group of researchers from Belgium and the Netherlands used a printer in an unprecedented medical operation by creating and implanting a 3D-printed lower jaw in the mouth of an 83-year-old woman.
According to Medical Daily, the procedure happened in June and was intended to treat the elderly woman’s osteomyeltis, a serious bone infection, which had spread to the lower jawbone. Doctors knew that the jawbone would need to be removed, but felt that reconstructive surgery would be too risky, and so they decided to find an alternative.
Enter the 3D printer. Based on research done at the Biomedical Research Institute at Belgium’s Hasselt University, the team devised a jaw implant for the woman. The lower mandible was created by Belgium-based metal-parts manufacturer LayerWise, and reportedly took a few hours to print. The 3D-printed lower jaw is made with titanium powder, fused together with a high-powered laser, and later coated with bio-ceramics to make the implant compatible with the host’s body tissue. The jaw, at 3.774 ounces, weighs slightly more than the woman’s original bone.
“The new treatment is a world premier because it concerns the first patient-specific implant in replacement of the entire lower jaw,” said Hasselt University’s Dr. Jules Poukens.
The surgery reportedly lasted for four hours; doctors said that the woman was able to speak and swallow normally within a day of the operation. The elderly patient has a follow-up point later this month in order to insert a set of dentures. The jaw transplant isn’t the first foray into medical uses for 3D printers. Recently, engineers from Washington State University showed how 3D printed scaffold could be used to facilitate bone growth. The 3D printing medical movement could lead to more efficiency with the speed and precision of custom molded implants.
So in summary, I believe that 3D Printing will have huge impact on key industries and on each of our lives over the coming years. I think they need to give it a new name though because 3D printing really does not do the technology justice. It would be great to hear your thoughts.
Posted by Warren Raisch: April 3, 2012