Conclusion

3D printing has found many useful and potentially revolutionary applications in today’s world and it appears to be accelerating towards mainstream adoption. As high quality printers reduce in price, they may well have a place in the office and home of the future. However as with all emerging technology it is almost impossible to say.

Access to 3D printing services is growing, with websites like Shapeways and Materialise offering competitive printing prices in a range of materials as well as offering a thriving market place to sell your designs. These services are starting to be adopted onto the high street with the appearance of Fab-Labs, workshops where you can learn and try your hand at the technology yourself. Staples, the multinational office supplier is the first retailer to sell 3D printers and it plans to offer 3D printing services in the future.

3D printing has never been more accessible, although it still has a way to go. CAD software, the programs used to create 3D designs still present a steep learning curve for beginners. Companies like Autodesk are trying to combat this with a free online software package called 123d which allows users to create designs within their Internet browser. They also offer mobile and tablet applications where you create 3D models from a series of photographs. There is also an array of free open-source CAD software to download off the Internet, such as Blender and Google SketchUp. These initiatives make entry into 3D printing open to anyone.

The discourse aroused by 3D printed guns and gun parts is extremely important in context with the emergence of a digital age. The Internet is maturing into what seems like an uncontrollable force with worldwide governments tailing behind trying to regulate at least parts of what is going on. Steve Israel, a US congressman is attempting to pass legislature that would ban 3D printed guns entirely. Discussions like this will have a big impact on the way the Internet operates and for freedom of information initiatives.

The most useful applications of 3D printing are within the medical sector, be it held in the potential of Bioprinting or the amazing ways customisable prosthetics have changed people’s lives. It is fascinating and almost unbelievable to see a new technology be used in so many ways, its future will surely change countless lives, it is hard to see any aspect of medical practice being untouched by 3D printing.

Although the medias focus is on printable guns, other more revolutionary developments occur daily in 3D printing and there are those who pioneer a more constructive future for the technology. 3D printing may well cause a paradigm shift in manufacturing and politics and certainly has a far nobler future than the ability to print out your favourite TV show character.

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