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Will 3D Printing Spark Tomorrow’s Industrial Revolution?

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by Dabney B. | shared from GnomonSchool

Back in the late 18th century, America and many regions throughout Europe went through the Industrial Revolution. A couple of nifty inventions kickstarted the revolution, prompting a flurry of invention and innovation as people built factories and sped up production processes.

In a way, you can say that we’ve been going through an Industrial Revolution every couple of years. Harnessing electricity sparked a whole bunch of new gadgets, the invention of the airfoil opened up the skies with a new era of flight, and the invention of the Internet fundamentally altered the world as we know it. Are you noticing a pattern here? New inventions lead to new periods in human ingenuity.

Not every invention is game-changing enough to change the world as we know it, but every once in a while a clever person comes up with a truly great idea and shares it with the world. The most recent game-changer is undoubtedly the 3D printer.

Image source: Digitaltrends.com

These nifty gadgets are already affecting our political climate — gun rights activists are challenging current laws by sharing digital blueprints for 3D printed guns. A couple of scientists have also figured out how to print 3D skeletons of living animals. What’s next? 3D printed cars? 3D printed smartphones? 3D printed furniture?

It’s hard to say for sure. The guy who first discovered radio waves probably never would have guessed that it would lead to wireless data transmission on such a massive scale, and the first guy to invent rockets couldn’t have dreamed that we’d use it to put a man on the moon.

3D printing is in a similar position. Most people understand that it’s poised to revolutionize the modern world, but nobody is exactly sure how it’s going to do that. Maybe it will change footwear by allowing doctors to create custom orthotics:

Image source: Hypebeast.com

As a 3D designer, you’re uniquely poised to stand at the forefront of this modern Industrial Revolution. Investors are chomping at the bit to throw buckets at money at whoever can come up with the next great idea. Chris Dixon, an entrepreneur-turned-investor, said, “For us, we think [3D printing is] a major, incredibly significant innovation. It will transform manufacturing and I can see us making multiple investments.” Dixon put his money where his mouth is to the tune of a $30 million investment.

Dixon and I agree about the importance of 3D printing, but we don’t quite see eye-to-eye about historical metaphors. He called the current hardware boom in New York a “hardware renaissance.”

Dixon continued, “Before the Internet you had to go to a publisher and get an investment. Now you can publish your ebook or blog and it dramatically lowered the cost and enabled the long tail, democratized writing. We can see 3D printing doing that to manufacturing. You can cut a deal with manufacturing now and have a Shapeways printer and the batch size is one.”

Now is the best time to be a 3D designer. The video game industry is booming, 3D movies and special effects are more popular than ever, and 3D printing has opened up a whole new world possibilities. Will you be one of the first world-changers to walk through this newly-opened door?

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