“Kids will be drawn to them like magnets.”
That’s how Attorney John Hornick, who specializes in law relating to intellectual property, talks about 3D printers (also knows as additive manufacturing) and why he thinks they’ll soon be common in the home.
Also appealing is the idea of printing sweets at home. “There’s a company that makes a chocolate printer for making unusual shaped candy. And there’s a one for making things out of sugar, for things like a wedding cake topper,” says Hornick, author of the new book “3D Printing Will Rock the World.” But he doesn’t see food as a serious application – at least over the short-term. “While there are particular applications in food, I don’t foresee us using a 3D printer for making dinner over the next 20 or 30 years.”
It is the use of “desktop manufacturing,” yet another name, as a tool for education that Hornick sees as the prime instigator for domestic use. They will cost about $200, he figures, and will be used for doing schoolwork, at first.
“These machines are being used in STEAM education (STEM education with an “A” added for “arts”) – so science teachers are using them because you can print out something that you are studying and you can print out a 3D model of it. You can use it for history, you can print out a battle scene, for example.”
As for toys, Hornick sees printers that can bang out simple items for small children to play with, and more specialized ones for particular areas of interest. “Maybe there will be one that will only make superheroes, for example. So there will be all kinds of machines that will do kinds of different things,” he said.
The same is true for adults. “The guy with the best lawnmower, he may have a wood-shop, and he may have a high-end printer, and he may use it to make replacement parts for his lawnmower, for his vehicles or for the house,” explains Hornick. But even for less serious gardeners and handymen, Hornick sees an application. “People who live in apartments might use a cheaper printer for making kitchen tools.”
The process is called additive printing because “you’re adding things until you have a finished product.” Imagine a chocolate printer that can “print” a coffee cup from bottom to the top, one line of chocolate at a time.
The real revolution will not take place in the home but rather in the manufacturing world, explains Hornick. There are several key impacts of additive printing that will “change how design is done, it will change business models, and it will change the job market.”
This is because much of manufacturing will become decentralized, representing a return to the way things were before the industrial revolution moved production away from the end user.
Imagine being able to order items from designs on a website and then picking them up at a local 3D print shop just as you can now have photos printed at chain stores like CVS.
As with most new technology, there are things to be worried about when it comes to 3D printing, which, as Hornick explains in the book, opens up a world of opportunity for counterfeiters to reproduce items at a much lower cost than retail.