Believe it or not, 3D Printing has been possible for around 30 years, but only
within the last few years has it become much more accessible to everybody. The
reason 3D printers are more accessible is due to the price tag being from
around £300 to £2000. Still sound expensive? Well it's important to note that
up until now 3D printers have been on the market for £25,000 upwards. What’s
the catch you say, the resolution is not as high as the more expensive
counterparts although still impressive. Also, be careful to read all
literature, as some arrive as parts which you assemble, and this can take
anywhere between a day to two weeks. Assembling it yourself can be an advantage
though because if something does go wrong with it, you probably will have an
understanding of how to put it right.
On a different note, it is predicted that by 2020 most people will have some sort of experience with a 3D printer, and this could be a huge shock wave not only in terms of consumerism but also in terms of designers being the makers again and heralding a new Digital Arts and Crafts movement (well worth researching William Morris for more information regarding the original Arts and Crafts movement). Also as a generalisation, it is widely believed that the western world is much more design orientated and the eastern world is more production based due to its workforce being much more competitive. Take a look at the back of your iPhone or anything i related for that matter, it will read designed by apple in California assembled in China just as one example.
I would suggest that certainly within the next 10 years we will see more start-up design firms in the west but also in developing countries, and due to 3D printing technology becoming much more affordable and advanced these design firms will compete on a much more level playing ground than ever before. New products will become available for purchase only hours after they were designed, and people will have more freedom to adapt objects to suit their own needs. I think the international patent office will need to rethink how they operate as there will soon be a catalogue of printable objects which will resemble iTunes, and we all know how iTunes revolutionised the music business.
Interested in buying a 3D Printer? Check out the following links to get you started.