Thursday, May 12, 2016

Future Tech: Innovation or Gimmick? (Part 4)

One technological innovation that is slowly but steadily being embraced is 3D printing. When you think of 3D printing, you might imagine a large, expensive machine that prints fun plastic toys, but the use 3D printing has exploded in recent years. According to some surveys, two-thirds of the manufacturing industry is using 3D printing, some for rapid prototyping, others for production or for custom parts. The global market for 3D printing is projected to be at $16.2 billion in 2018, and research has predicted that it will quadruple over the next decade. Desktop 3D printers are becoming more affordable, and the range of application is expansive: dentists are printing Invisalign braces for patients, General Electric is printing complex metal parts for motors, and even commercial airline Airbus has been using 3D printing to save millions in parts production and fuel costs by shaving off the weight of an aircraft. Airbus even has plans to completely 3D print an airplane someday. A Chinese company has even managed to use a giant 3D printer to print 10 single-level houses in one day. Someday, you may be able to buy something on Amazon and then 3D print it right at home, enjoying near-instant delivery! (and don't worry, 3D printing speeds are improving quickly as the technology advances.) It's looking like 3D printing isn't just a passing fad—what we're seeing right now may just be the beginning.

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