What is 3D printing?

With the prolonged economic stagnation that has plagued Main Street America in the wake of the Great Recession, it is easy to give up hope of a better future ever arriving on our shores. Indeed, the outsourcing of manufacturing to the developing world has permanently moved the mass production engines of industry to nations that can out-compete us on cost, who pay their workers a tiny fraction of what labor costs here at home.

Short of allowing this nation to slowly decline to the point where living standards match that of the Third World, it’s hard to conceive of a mass re-migration of Industrial Revolution era employers back to the West.

Our future isn’t in our past though: it will come through the embrace of the entrepreneurial spirit by large portions of our population, and one of the tools that will lead to the decentralization of economic machinery in the economy will be the wide scale adoption of the 3D printer.

3d printing

What is 3D printing?

Combining AUTOCAD 3D drawings on a computer with a machine that ejects feedstock (plastic, metal, even biological matter) through a printing gun that operates on X,Y and Z axises (essentially, length, width and depth – 3 dimensions of space), the 3D printer will fill out a product from bottom to top.

What is being made?

Everything from custom knick-knacks to prototypes for new product concepts has been made so far.  A Dutch home builder has plans to create a gargantuan 3D printer to make parts for a conceptual building in the next few years, and an anti-government firebrand has made waves as 25 year old Cody Wilson from Texas has used a 3D printer to make custom guns – and has posted his blueprints on the internet for those like him to use for their own purposes.

What does this all mean?

Aside from the potential negative implications noted in the latter example above, the 3D printing revolution offers people dispossessed by the current economic situation in the West to take their destiny into their own hands and build custom products that their target niches want and/or need. After an initial investment in a Stratasys or a Makerbot, the cheap feedstock needed to build their products, and a burning idea that gains traction, it is all a potential entrepreneur needs to begin banking coin for themselves and their family.

Those not in the entrepreneurship game will have their lives transformed as well. Any product they have that has a part that breaks could be easily replaced via 3D printing, as the customer will only have to download the blueprint of the replacement part from the manufacturer and print it up in their or a local store’s 3D printer.  This will avoid the hassle of having to shell out for a new product or a costly repair, saving consumers tons of time and money.