3D Printing could be going mainstream sooner than you think

t seems like in this age of exploding smartphones, autonomous vehicles, and killer robots, we’ve come to ignore one of the hardest-hitting technologies of the 21st century – 3D printing. Now, I’ll be completely honest, I’ve also disregarded what I now see to be a revolution to the current manufacturing and design process, and I’m out to right my very evident wrongs. Traditionally, we’ve perceived 3D printing as an almost gimmicky, novel practice that thrives in highly funded and covert research labs. Throw in a tinge of realism and a collective effort by some incredibly innovative enterprises, and we now see affordable, effective 3D printers pervade the workspace of universities, edgy designers, and ambitious engineers.

The kicker, however, is that these groups work exclusively in ABS plastics, the cheap, banal, and ubiquitous 3D printing material. Feel free to think of such plastics as the engineering equivalent of black ink in your standard desktop printer. But, let’s face it – if you’re actively seeking to disrupt manufacturing and design as an underdog, you have to use metal. Carnegie is smiling in his grave; the efficacy and long-term success of the world’s modern enterprises are defined by their forward-thinking use of metal to create amazing products (hint: any technology, design, or industrial company). So, while NASA, Apple, and Boeing continue to trail blaze using laser-melted metal printing, the little guys can’t – until now. We now have a 3D metal printing process that’s faster, safer, and cheaper than its existing counterparts, and it’s going to flip traditional means on their heads. Maybe it’s finally time for a bunch of ambitious creators to start milling products in a garage and change the world – again.

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