Of all the dumb names for a new revolutionary technology "3D Printers" must be the worst. These amazing new devices which are sincerely going to change the industry have about as much to do with 3D as American politics does to reasoned debate.

Audi used 3D Printer i.e. Object Printer to print the RSQ prototype
Audi used a 3D Printer i.e. Object Printer to print the RSQ prototype

The Economist Image: How a 3-D Printer WorksWhen we think 3D we tend to think about 3D movies, games, navigation, etc. These printers have nothing to do with any of that. Nor do they ‘print’ in as much as there is absolutely no sheets of paper involved. Instead these new devices should be called ‘Object Printers’. The sooner we can call them that the faster people will realize just how amazingly cool they are.

The first time you finally realize what these do its quite jaw dropping. So here goes. You download or create a 3D model of the object. ANY OBJECT. You know that we’ve hit mainstream when pirate sites are offering downloads of models, yes really, Pirate. You can visit The Pirate Bay and download 3D objects for printing.

The illustration left from the Economist shows a simple cog. 3D Object Printing takes that model from the computer and from the three-dimensional data, creates solid, three-dimensional parts through an additive, layer-by-layer process. Bored? Do not be! Take a look at this, Audi is creating car parts using these printers. Inspired Jay Leno bought one and started making custom parts for his car collection.

Don’t like cars? How about toys? To see just how far you can go check out this video of a violin which was made by an 3D Object printer.

The implications of this are enormous. Because with one of these printers anyone can start manufacturing anything, anywhere. As of yet mass production is out of the question but small runs of custom designed furniture, toys, clothes, shoes, cutlery, bicycles, tools, etc. can be designed, made and sold.

I really don’t think that many people outside of ‘techies’ are aware of these things yet but over the next 12-18 months everyone will get to know about them. They will turn up at work and in the home. Humans being what we am I can only imagine what bizarre objects will end up being made. If we can think of it then it can now be made, immediately, right now. On our desks.

About the Author
Roy Taylor is a veteran executive in the tech industry. Roy was one of key executives at NVIDIA, creating and leading divisions in the company which drove the company to its leadership status. The start of NVIDIA in EMEA region, developer relations, The Way Its Meant To Be Played program, Telecom Relations (first Tegra design wins) were all driven by a charming Englishman who discovered his second youth in both sides of California. Currently serves as Executive Vice President and General Manager of MasterImage 3D and his vision is to bring glassless 3D to our hands in the forms of tablets and smartphones. You can follow him on LinkedIn, Techhollyood and via his new Twitter account.