2013 has proven the point that 3D printing is a part of our technical world. A lot of interesting developments look place during the year and the total market was estimated to be worth 3 billion dollars by 2018. Now, at the start of a brand new year, we try to make you some predictions for 3D printing developments in 2014.
3D printing has been very helpful to the medical world in order to speed up surgeries or to provide for artificial or non-artificial body parts. These developments will definitely continue during the year of 2014. Something to look forward to is the work of Fripp Design Research from London and Manchester Metropolitan University. Researchers have found a way to create as many as 150 prosthetic eyes in one hour using a 3D printer. This can be very useful, because creating prosthetic eyes is still very much a time consuming activity and it takes weeks before patients are able to receive them. They are expected to be implemented within 12 months and therefore we think this can become a huge thing in the next year.
Another interesting company in the field of medical 3D prints is Organovo, a San Diego-based company that’s working on a fully functional 3D printed liver. This liver is expected to be implemented at late 2014, but unfortunately it will be technically impossible to let normal people use these livers. Therefore, it will be used for other purposes such as scientific research and drug testing in order to make it possible to develop drugs a little faster.
This is only one field of 3D printing. Obviously, we also expect a lot of positive things to happen in other fields, such as fashion, food and architecture. However, there are also applications of 3D printing that potentially cause trouble. In 2013 there was a lot of controversy about 3D printing guns, with political parties arguing whether we have to ban 3D printed guns or not. The UK and American city Philadelphia decided to prohibit such guns and we expect a lot of countries and cities to follow their example in the next year. A tough year for companies such as Defense Distribution and Solid Concepts, but it will probably be for the best.
What we also do expect to happen is that 3D printing will more and more find a way to be used by the masses. To make this happen, we will need a lot of easy-to-use 3D printing apps. During the last months, lots of interesting apps were released, such as a 3D printer for Windows, a 3D printing service app for your lost house keys or a 3D scanning app for mobile phones. Next to this, 3D printers need to become cheaper in order to make them affordable for individuals. We therefore expect a lot from companies such as Deltaprintr, that has invented a 3D printer for less than 500 dollars. 3D printing metal is also still an expensive activity, because it simply costs a lot to print a material such as metal. However, since the Michigan Technological University has presented an open-source 3D metal printer for only 1500 dollars, this will possibly change a bit in the next year. Cheaper metallic 3D prints will definitely mean a breakthrough for 3D printing.
What we also expect from 3D printing is a wider approach to a young generation. 3D printing companies will possibly play a big role in this. Of course we haven’t forgotten about MakerBot’s aim to have a 3D printer in every US school. But that’s not it yet, because also the youngest children will sooner or later get to learn about 3D printing, of course in a childlike way. This month we’ve written about the first children’s book on 3D printing, and who knows what will follow? Maybe another 11-year-old kid who’ll teach us about 3D printing?