3D Printing: Even More Disruptive Than That.

“3d printing is even more disruptive than you’re giving it credit for.” So says Kevin Kwok of Yale University, in a comment on Wednesday’s post about MakerBot and 3D printing.

Kevin is totally right, which is why I had to write a follow-up post.

In Wednesday’s post I was focusing on how 3D printing may disrupt fabrication one day, making it totally unnecessary to do manufacturing in places like China and Detroit.

That’s pretty big.

The possibly even bigger picture though, as Kevin points out, is that 3D printing allows people to share designs with one another the same way you share and print jpegs with people these days. Or in the same way you share mp3s and burn CDs from them.

So imagine not even having to know how to design something in order to manufacture it. Imagine not ever needing to get something in the mail from UPS. Imagine stores not needing to actually manufacture things at all – they just send a blueprint, and the end user just pops that blueprint into their printer and bing, there’s the product. (I guess “store” is the wrong word in that case – as would be “manufacturer” – so what do call the designer/seller of things then? The designer? The company? The brand?). Imagine being able to share blueprints of things with others for free. You get the blueprint for a bike you like, share it with a friend, and he can then make that same bike for the cost of the materials.

It totally fragments the whole process of manufacturing and delivery of goods from start point to end point.

It’s sort of like the Gutenberg press of physical objects.

What happens to manufacturing in this case?

What happens to shipping and delivery?

What happens to stores and companies?

What happens to brands?

What happens to the price of goods?

Interesting stuff to think about.

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