How 3D Printing Has Changed Society Forever

How 3D Printing Has Changed Society Forever

How are we as a civiliation to understand the impact of this new technology on our future development.

Plus Aziz
  • 12 may 2013

FABRICATED: The New World of 3D Printing is a text that works to illuminate 3D printing’s role in undermining the rigidity of manufacturing. This is accomplished by providing an on-demand production tool that product designers, students, doctors, and others can benefit from. Authors Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman convey a level-headedness and cautious enthusiasm that is refreshing. Instead of pushing the idea that every home will have a 3D printer in the future, they spend considerable time envisioning alternative scenarios by analyzing different types of enthusiast communities, how and why they’re gaining market traction. In their book you will find coverage of various science experiments, educational initiatives, the creative thinking of large companies like 3D Systems, and more consumer-facing platforms like Makerbot and Shapeways.

The secret to 3D printing could be summed up as follows: 3D printers are more accurate and versatile than any other mode of production — be it a human or machine — at fabricating complex design into a physical object, combining raw materials in ways that were once impossible.

The book explains the world of 3D printing in all its technologies, design tools, and downstream implications, covering corporate R&D labs to the DIY initiatives we see in the DIY and Maker communities. FABRICATED does a great job in explaining how the technology has gained traction in industries including electronics, automotive, aerospace and the medical community. It also dedicates a good portion of the book to explaining more conceptual areas such as 3D printed food. Below is a summary of the key takeaways from the book.

A Historical Overview of 3D Printing

As new as it seems, 3D printing has been around since the late 80’s. For decades, a niche community of enthusiasts have been exploring the possibilities of this technology. Initially, it was referred to as ‘additive manufacturing’ and the text develops the idea that the word “print” is ultimately more approachable than ‘manufacture’ or ‘fabricate’.

The authors see 3D printing as a way of gaining control over composition. This means the birth of “programmable matter” or “intelligent materials”. They see an eventual convergence of virtual and physical worlds, “first we will gain control over the shape of physical things. Then we will gain new levels of control over the composition, the materials they’re made of. Finally, we will gain control over the behavior of physical things.” The biggest future-forward implication of this is doctors gaining the ability to ‘print’ organic material like body parts and food. The book dedicates the entirety of its seventh chapter to discussing bioprinting, which may include the development of artificial limbs to the engineering of tissue, stem cells using bio-ink and bio-paper. And this is followed by a chapter on the realities of printing food.

The book actually leaps into these future implications early on in chapter 1, which presents is an imaginative take on how life may be in a future where everything from functional food to a toothbrush can be printed. This is quickly followed by a more historicized understanding that articulates the 10 Principles of 3D Printing (e.g. makers don’t need to pay extra for complex designs, 3D printed objects don’t require assembly, that digital precision will enable to replicate physical objects).

3D Printing Body Parts

The Question of Scale and Impact on Businesses

As mentioned, the authors believe that 3D printing is slated to merge digital and physical creativity. Based on this, it will also bring together the benefits of craftsmanship and mass production together by enabling smaller players to compete more directly with larger players. In their third chapter, they dedicate time to looking at how 3D printing is “somewhere between mass production and the local farmer’s market.” They elaborate to say that while 3D printing as a process is not very scaleable for a company selling large volumes of a product with thin margins, “small companies have access to powerful tools that were once available only to global corporations. Resourceful businesses, armed with a 3D printer and design software, can provide skilled services of a caliber that were once the exclusive domain of corporate in-house design and engineering departments.” This is, in a nutshell, how it will impact the design business environment.

The Question of Adoption in Consumer Culture

While some like Makerbot and 3D Systems are working to move 3D printers into people’s homes making them ‘ants with factories,’ the book provides a counter point by citing industry analyst Terry Wohlers in saying that while consumers are comfortable purchasing 3D printed customized goods, “most consumers will never own or operate a machine to produce these products. Instead, they will go to Shapeways, Amazon, or to another service or storefront to purchase these products.” While this may be true, other trends such as the rise of ethical consumerism or sustainable product design may lead to an unlikely uptake. The authors wrap this point up nicely in asserting that “the key is to make 3D printing technologies more fun, more social, and of course easier to use.” Thus the fate of in-home 3D printing lays in the hands of a few players including O’Reilly’s the Maker community and Makerbot’s playful culture.

Given the importance of these enthusiastic communities, Chapter 12 spends delves into the complications of ownership and new legal frontiers. This includes not only the rights to product designs, but also the potential for the development of a black market where 3D printed weapons, body parts, and drugs are sold, posing a threat to consumer safety. This chapter reflects on the role of consumer responsibility and the need to quickly develop a legal framework to prevent counterfeit machines or the proliferation of unregulated printed objects.

All in all, FABRICATED is a timely book that brings much clarity to the field of 3D printing and its connection to the broader field of digital fabrication. 3D printing is one of those buzz terms that is poorly understood; the average person exposed to this technology will typically come to know it in a fragmented way that lacks nuance and a holistic understanding. The sculpting of a dynamic understanding will be crucial to understanding this new technology’s impact on our society as it stands now, and how it will develop.

FABRICATED: The New World of 3D Printing


Lyft Gives Free Rides To Those Who Have Had Too Much To Drink

Syndicated Yesterday

Banned Books Week Urges People To Seek Out Controversial Works

Joining the annual celebration of the right to read, US author Jessica Herthel called for 'more information, more voices' to protect diversity

Augmented & Virtual Reality Yesterday

Outdoor Camp Presented In 360° VR By X Games Gold Medalist

The video features campers riding BMX trails, zip lining through the woods, and performing big-air jumps


Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Automotive

See All
Travel Yesterday

Boeing Wants Passengers To Control Their In-Flight Experience Through Their Phones

The airline manufacturer is embracing automation through a new generation of mobile travel apps

Augmented / Virtual Reality Yesterday

VR Surgery Videos Offer Interactive Medical Education

Dutch startup MDLinking hopes to globalize communication between students and medical care professionals with virtual reality content

Related Expert

Catherine Balsam-Schwaber

Brand Storytelling, TV Entertainment

Culture Yesterday

Use Twitter To Learn A New Language

tDict is an app that uses the social media platform to help you search for words in local dialects

Mobile Yesterday

This Startup Wants To Digitize The Loose Coins In Your Pocket

CoinOut is a new app that lets you save your extra change from cash transactions as electronic funds

Advertising Yesterday

McDonald’s Is Accepting Trash As Currency In Exchange For Burgers

An initiative in Stockholm is trying to keep streets clean while satisfying hunger


Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry

PSFK Op-Ed september 21, 2016

Creative Agency Founder: Using VR As A Race Relationship Tool

Maurice Bernstein, CEO and Founder of Giant Step, explores the value in transforming headsets from high-tech entertainment tools into empathy machines

PSFK Labs september 22, 2016

The Future Of Work: Why Innovation Is Every Employee’s Job

PSFK Labs sits down with management at Johnson & Johnson to learn how the company comes up with their next ‘big idea’

Culture Yesterday

Google Is Using Virtual Paper Airplanes To Bring People Closer Together

The tech giant released an app that lets people throw their good wishes out into the world on the International Day of Peace

Advertising Yesterday

Get Paid For Traveling In San Francisco After Rush Hour

BART Perks rewards commuters who take early or late trains by giving them extra points to trade for money

Culture Yesterday

Artist Designs Covers For Books That Don’t Exist

Published by the fictional 'Specious Books,' the subversive works facilitate a conversation regarding the artistic integrity of graphic designers

Work Yesterday

Editorial Roundtable: The Arrival Of The People-First Workplace

Managed By Q, Soma, Workbar, Primary, AltSchool and thinkPARALLAX enumerate the reasons why companies need an employee-embracing workforce in order to exist

Food Yesterday

Bringing Food Innovation To America’s Crowded Milk Market

a2 Milk's Blake Waltrip, Chief Executive of the USA region, discusses how the distributor plans on bringing the popular drink for the dairy-sensitive to the States


Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders

Financial Services Yesterday

Device Makes Digital Currency Feel Tangible

The concept gadget wants you to experience the highs and lows of spending money

Design & Architecture Yesterday

Why Building Better Offices Is The Key To Employee Engagement

Interaction Designer and Audio-visual Technologist at ESI Design illustrates the value in creating environments filled with surprise and delight

Augmented / Virtual Reality Yesterday

NBC Is Planning To Stream The Presidential Debates In Virtual Reality

Partnering with AltspaceVR, the broadcaster offers another way for Americans to engage with the election season

No search results found.