With the rise of 3D printing, the production processes of a huge array of consumer products are now affected by this advancing technology. Right now, further advances are largely limited by surface quality, strength properties, and color of materials: in other words, we still have a very long way to go before people are going to be able to 3D-print consumer electronics in their homes. That said, as 3D printing techniques are refined, this list is going to get much longer.
1. Braces: You’ve all probably seen commercials or advertisements for Invisalign’s “invisible braces.” Invisalign was game-changing for the industry in a few huge ways. First of all, they were invisible, which helped rapidly do away with common stigmas attached to traditional braces. Secondly, Invisalign made early use of a revolutionary technology that few other companies were integrating into their manufacturing: 3D printing. Invisalign uses stereolithography (a type of 3D printing) as major part of their production process, allowing them to make a completely personalized product for each individual patient.
Invisalign is a product of Align Technology. Align Technology was founded in 1997 by Zia Chishti, and today has a market capitalization of $4.4 billion. ‘Nuff said.
2. Photography: Only very recently has 3D technology become good enough to capture and reproduce physical objects. Who knew it would touch on something so detailed as a human being. One example of a company doing just that is Twindom in Berkeley, CA. After getting 3D photographed, a customer can order a miniature model of themselves wearing, doing, and holding almost anything. Unlike traditional photographs, a 3D model allows you to see someone from every angle, a unique feature 2D photography can’t offer.
This is a growing business, with technological implications that could add to and disrupt a variety of exciting industries in addition to photography, including virtual reality, gaming, and social media.
3. Jewelry: One of the biggest advantages of 3D printing is its ability to create very precise geometries that aren’t possible with other manufacturing methods. All you need to do is take one look at Shapeway’s jewelry section and you get the idea. Fine jewelry is very much an art form and designers are always trying to push the limits of what’s possible. It is now possible to 3D print in gold, silver and other precious metals, making 3D printing an even more attractive medium for fine designers and artists.
Though it will be several years before the industry takes off at a global scale, the spread and reach of 3D printing is growing, and it deserves a lot more attention than it’s currently given. What products do you see affected by 3D printing? How do you see 3D printing changing the consumer experience? Check back with us weekly to keep up with the latest from Twindom and the 3D printing industry!