Industries at risk of being flipped by 3D (and 4D!) printing

3D printing is one of the technologies with the largest transformative power and therefore the highest potential of flipping and disrupting several industries among the technologies to appear in the last couple of years. Given its democratizing nature, with radically decreasing the costs to consumers and providing them previously unprecedented value, it is such a clear blue ocean strategy enabler (a technology that underlies the creation of many blue ocean strategies). Gabor George Burt wrote about this also recently.
An Economist special report last year described how it will change manufacturing, which is of course the most obvious effect. However, over the last year, while the technology is still far from reaching customers in any meaningful way (even if I’m of course keen on getting a makerbot!), we’re already seeing more and more examples of industries that might be flipped. It remains to be seen how changed these industries will be. Some recent interesting examples include:

1. Architecture. A recent Click podcast discussed how we might soon have printable houses, or at least part of houses. Eventually, we should only need star architects who take the profession further, and the run-of-the-mill houses we can just download and print ourselves. If we could couple this with recyclable architecture and pop-up architecture, things could get really interesting. On a related topic, btw, I was really interested to see that IKEA is partnering with the UN to build refugee shelters. Just don’t call them Björn.

2. Tourism. Another recent Click podcast talked about digital tourism, which suggests that digital technologies probably hold more upside than downside to the tourism industry (smartphone apps making travel easier, like triposo and tripwolf, should be a larger effect than people staying at home and taking staycations watching underwater Google Streetview, for example). A fun example of a potentially severe threat to tourism was given in this Big Think article, though – printing famous sculptures at home. Couple this with art museums Google Streetview, and you have soon eliminated the need to travel!

3. Medicine. With 4D printing, 3D-printed structures can adapt to their surroundings with time being the fourth dimension, as detailed in this Guardian article with a link to a TED speech on the topic. As we get closer to the DNA scale with these technologies, the possibilities seem endless.

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