Where 3D began
Though conceived even earlier, Hideo Kodama of Nagoya Municipal Industrial Research Institute created the first 3D printer in 1981; then in 1984, Charles (Chuck) Hull of 3D Systems Corporation developed a prototype system based on a process known as "Stereolithography"*.
Writing in his popular book, The JOOM Destiny: Just On Order Making, noted futurist Paul Tinari writes about the origin of 3D printing. The United States Department of Defense was motivated to develop the technology to avoid the ridiculous shipping charges for small parts needed from its vendors. In particular, a typical US Navy aircraft carrier battle group needed to carry millions of spare parts every time it went to sea; Tinari suggested that they manufacture their spare parts at sea, exactly what the Navy now does.
Creating a society of abundance
Tinari believes that the potential of 3D Printing is to create "a society of abundance" in which people will be able to fabricate whatever is needed at a low cost. And that "whatever" even includes houses. Using current technology and available materials, he says we could print a house in 24 hours; the opportunity to eliminate homelessness is enormous.
A new life for old machines
Many times in the past, society has abandoned machines, because of the lack of spare parts. Imagine a world in which you could print the needed part yourself for 99 cents, plus a small amount for materials. Many machines that would have been junked will now be reparable. Tinari is now developing a web site called JOOM3D.COM that will eventually store the downloadable and 3D printable designs of hundreds of millions of parts for every machine ever built.
Printing new organs and even diamonds
Using "Bio-3D Printing", it is now possible to build new human organs on biodegradable matrices. "Molecular 3D Printers" will be able to fabricate advanced man-made materials, and even manufacture huge gemstones, relatively inexpensively. Eventually we will be able to fabricate a five-carat diamond for less than USD$1.
A 3D printer in every home?
A sophisticated 3D printer is now available for about USD $5000 and Tinari expects prices will decline by half every year. So just like the replicators in Star Trek, we will be able to print out replacement parts in our home for virtually anything. With this machine, downloaded designs, and with the right raw materials, it is now possible to print objects of all shapes and most sizes---in the privacy of your own home.
The implications of this technology for reducing consumption and waste are far-reaching. With its enormous potential, 3D Printing will revolutionize many aspects of our lives, if we will only be open to it. Just as most of us now have computers and smartphones, so will we all have 3D printers in our homes in three to five years. Tinari believes, that not only will there be a printer in every home, there will be a printer in every room.
* Stereolithography is an additive manufacturing process that uses polymer resin that is "cured" one layer at a time, as it is deposited, using an ultraviolet laser. ###
From "The Herman Trend Alert," by Joyce Gioia, Strategic Business Futurist.