While most of the tech blogs are abuzz with the promise 3D printing holds for the future, other sectors are only beginning to sense the potential behind this exciting new technology. One of the markets that 3D printing has the potential to impact the most is design, in all its forms: interior, industrial, fashion and otherwise. And with students graduating with design degrees from colleges like the Interactive Design Institute in the UK with training in three dimensional design and rendering, the popularity of 3D printing and the rate of innovation is set to soar. Here are a three ways, in particular, that you can expect this hot new technology to revolutionize design.
Historically, the process of taking a design from the early stages of development to its release on the open market has been costly and time consuming. What is more, each of the various stages in product development seldom take place under a single roof: a product is designed at one company in one country, while its manufacture usually takes place in another, when it can finally be shipped to its destination market. 3D printing promises to take one of those steps – manufacturing – and allow it to occur in the same place, if not in the same company, as the design. Not only do products become cheaper to produce and develop, but the timeframe for releasing new products also shrinks. As such, 3D printing promises to see product development cycles cut drastically, which means designers can innovate more rapidly and respond to consumer demands in a more agile way. Product costs likewise go down when manufacturing doesn’t have to be outsourced to foreign countries: companies will no longer be subject to the same punitive tax codes if they manufacture through 3D printing within their home country.
The speed and simplicity with which one can manufacture 3D printed products also promises to revolutionise the small business sector. 3D printing reduces one of the key impediments to realising ideas: the complexity and overhead of physically producing them. As such, smaller scale entrepreneurs with great ideas but little investment capital will be able to break into markets that might otherwise have been inaccessible. The design landscape will change drastically once these new voices enter into it; where design was once the province of professionals only, it will become far more democratised.
Assembly line-style production – whether it is performed by people or machines – lends itself to large scale, repetitive designs that appeal to broad market segments. Designers have to look for a golden mean in a product category, trying to suit the largest amount of consumers at one time. 3D printing, however, makes customization of products relatively simple; sneakers can be made to fit scans of one’s foot, clothes tailor-made to fit one’s body. Designs that favour catch-all sizes and dimensions will fall away in favour of products that allow for maximum customization to better suit a given consumer’s needs.