3D Printing Could Herald The Age Of Open Source Stuff

Brian Reale | OpenSource.com | January 20, 2014

3D printing is set to disrupt multiple industries thanks to its unique position at the intersection of three important trends in technology: the Internet of Things, our growing desire to personalize our things, and the coming revolution in the way things get delivered to us.

Operating at this unique trifecta, 3D printing promises to democratize the design and build process, allowing consumers to create their own stuff from scratch and take the concept of mass customization to an entirely new level. As modern consumers have come to expect very custom experiences, it’s no longer enough for manufacturers and merchants to offer products in a wide range of colors and styles. The ability to customize nearly everything is now commonplace, even expected, in products ranging from T-shirts to tennis shoes and iPods to M&Ms. 3D printing delivers the ability to customize quickly and inexpensively without worrying about minimum production runs.

3D printing also provides a one-of-a-kind way to distribute goods—that is, to print them on demand. It’s no secret that manufacturers and distributors are looking for ways to disrupt the way goods are delivered: Amazon plans to use drones and Google wants to use self-driving cars. But even these may not be necessary. After all, why ship a toaster around the world if you can just "beam it" there instead? Amazon already ships to its secure Amazon lockers—why not print to these lockers as well?