Behold 3D Printing: Bow Before It

The BBC has an awesome report on 3D printers at CES.  If you're not familiar with 3D Printing allow me to mock you.

It's looking like we have several companies working on home 3D printers – which means affordable ways to basically make plastic stuff at home off of your computer.  Try and wrap your mind around that idea – for $2000 you can make stuff off your computer.  All those times you glossy-printed fanart are nothing compared to this.

With more than one company in play here, I think it's inevitable that we're going to see 3D printers in the home (in fact the BBC article helps explain the simplicity of some of the tech).  So I'm trying to imagine the impact of this, and of course that means BULLET POINTS.

The Trends

  • These are simple and effective enough to get into public consciousness – and cheap enough for higher-end hobbyists to buy.  I think we'll see good market penetration once releases gear up.
  • These also are alien enough that I don't think people will be ready for the issues of repair, maintenance, malfunction, etc.  So expect a few horror stories about malfunctioning/broken 3D printers.
  • These are cool enough that I expect this to become "a thing" pretty easily.  I can already think of several people in my circle of friends who will want one.
  • When this becomes "a thing" I expect it to go pretty big – not iPad big, but big.  It won't be incredibly huge because there's only so many people interested in it, but big enough it'll be a noteworthy phenomena and subculture.

The Technology:

  • This technology will increase interest in 3D modeling and design, so expect more people to want – and learn – about the relevant tools.  Of course various graphic/design companies will love to be in on this.
  • People will find all sorts of amazing ways to hack this.

The Law:

  • You can guess pretty quickly that various companies will freak out that people are using these to make toys/figures/whatever.  There will be proposed legislation dumber than SOPA.
  • I'd guess at least one maker of 3D printers will try and add restrictions to what they do, or only use "approved" templates or whatever that will get them A) laughed at, and B) hacked anyway.

The Fans:

  • Fandom will go NUTS for this.  You just changed cosplay, dealer's rooms, swag, and more in one fell swoop.  People can make mercyhfor their new webcomic or own characters.  For some fans and hobbyists a 3D printer will be virtually required.
  • Artists, cosplayers, and modelers will use this – but I can see divisions between "printed" and "handcrafted" boosters.
  • This will draw more attention to Maker culture.  Maker culture of course will be doing amazing things with this, which they kind of are anyway.


  • Use of 3D printers, like use of WordPress and other things that can be hobby, job, or both will look great on a resume.
  • Ask yourself if your business or employer could get use from these – you could be the person that brings it to their attention/gets a drop on rivals.

The Opportunities:

  • Imagine games that come with files so you can 3D print characters or items.
  • Imagine games and sites that let you print your character.
  • Think of the way you can sell toys, etc. with printout instructions.
  • Companies that make toys and merch could let people print out extra accessories.
  • Think how quickly you can make merch for an effort.
  • Boy, are holiday gifts going to get interesting.
  • Simple things like shower curtain rings and utensils could just be printed – changing markets notably, if subtly.

 - Steven Savage