To many, 3D printing technology is brand new, but it has, in fact, been gaining popularity for a decade now. This is not just in such as the manufacturing industry, but within consumer markets and society as a whole, where it is being used for such as personalized jewelry or even bespoke toys.
In July 2015, the Harvard Business Review reported that approximately 90 of the top 300 largest global brands already use, or are considering the use of 3D printing for prototyping and other projects. It can ‘build the whole’ or it can be used for small items required for very precise mechanical needs.
3D printing represents big time and money advantages and, as the technology advances, it is safe to say that the use of 3D printers will increase, along with competitive pricing and better capabilities and capacities relative to different industries. But therefore, as its presence and relevance grows, greatly contributing to automation, there will also be a strong impact on everyday life as we currently know it – 3D printing is potentially the most drastic form of automation that society has faced in some time.
In all the excitement, one of the often ignored topics about 3D printing, as with many new technologies, is if it will have a negative impact on society in relation to job loss due to the replacement of skilled labor. Quite simply, it is not realistic to think that job opportunities in other 3D related areas, such as manufacturing and maintenance, will increase exponentially and suddenly become available.
As the automation increases, the amount of human resources needed will, without a doubt, decrease. As this technology advances there will be an extra ‘non-human’ resource available for both industry and individual households, but this may not benefit society overall. New companies and jobs can evolve from the technology, but others will, most surely, demise.
The 3D models and printers becoming available are very likely to increase the life of our home products, making it possible to create replacement parts that are often unavailable today. The technology will certainly reduce the environmental footprint of traditional manufacturing even if the amount of goods we consume increases; but there are still serious downsides to consider.
Just as the industrial revolution brought both positive and negative things, the increased automation and presence of 3D printers in industry and the home may have the same impact. 3D printing can be whatever we desire it to be, and whatever we make it to be, but, for some, it’s going to bring about a loss of wealth as opposed to new riches.