Will You be 3D-Printed Out of Business by 2040?



Airwolf 3D Printer









A year ago, I published a post: Will 3D Printers be the Next Big Game Changer?

That post included a video which is even more relevant today. Advances in 3D printing over the last 12 months indicate that this technology could be even more disruptive than the introduction of the PC.

An article today in DailyReckoning.com by Greg Guenthner speculates that the sales curve for 3D Printers in the USA market will follow that of the Personal Computer (PC) and by the year 2040, there will be around one 3D printer per person.

There have been dramatic changes in 3D printing technology and costs since my previous post. This is not a post about the technology, but what the impact will be on business and employment. Not for me, I will almost certainly be beyond caring about printers of any sort by 2040, but for anyone born after 1980, this one innovation could have life-changing implications. For more information on the technology, visit the Wikipedia link for 3D Printing.

This week, the Toronto Star reported on  a talk by Cody Wilson at SXSW on how guns could be created with 3D printers. A controversial idea for sure, but an indicator of the versatility of this new technology.

Think of all the items we use in our homes and businesses on a daily basis that are much less complicated than guns or other manufactured items with fine tolerances.

Most non-electrical utensils we use in the kitchen and garden could be made on a 3D printer:

  • pots & pans
  • plates, dishes & mugs
  • Knives, forks and spoons
  • Small workshop and garden tools.

There are also numerous possibilities for office consumables, replacement parts for motor vehicles, appliances, toys.

Just imagine, surprise guests arriving for dinner, print out another set of expensive looking crockery. Fridge needs a new shelf, print it.

The PC made it easier and quicker to do things we had done before, like writing, calculating and researching. Mankind has been doing that for centuries using pens, pencils, fingers, abacus and libraries. The PC did allow more of us to become published, more widely and more quickly.

The wide acceptance of the PC has dramatically changed the movie, music and video rental industries. It has seen the virtual extinction of video cassette manufacturers, door-to-door sales people for many products and services like encyclopedias.

It has had an impact on many other industries and services, in the process creating new industries for on-line retailers, information marketers and others. Other developments are more accurately seen as extensions or improvements on old activities.

Social media participation is a prime example, before Facebook, twitter and You Tube, we had letters to the editor in newspapers, telephones and 8mm movie sharing.

Indications are that 3D printing will have far greater impact as the cost of manufacture drops down the learning curve. It will allow millions of people to not only do things quicker and for a bigger audience, but to do things they have never done before.

This technology could breed a huge range of “cottage industries” making small manufactured items at home or in small factories. It could give massive momentum to the barter movement. Each of us specialising in the printing of one type of product and exchanging with others without any money changing hands. My coat hangers for your wiper blades, both of us happy with a trade invisible to the tax authority’s radar. The government would love that.

Huge implications for those manufacturers with investments in large-scale manufacturing capacity for those small parts. They could see their business fade away over night, even quicker than video recorder producers.

A whole new field opening up for people who can write the codes for the printers. New opportunities for supplying the raw materials for the ceramics and alloys used in the printers as feedstock.

It should be cheaper to ship the raw materials directly to the user than it currently is to distribute the finished product through the retail channel.  Even if that item is bought on-line and shipped direct, there still could be significant savings for the consumer by printing it at home.

That could have huge ramifications for global trade, it might negate the low labour costs of the developing world completely and restore the older economies to their former manufacturing and trading prominence.

Plenty to think about and plan for. Especially if you are under 40.

What do you think about 3D printing? Fact or Fantasy? Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment.

Wishing you success.


Peter Wright




Photo credit:  Wikipedia Creative Commons


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  4 comments for “Will You be 3D-Printed Out of Business by 2040?

  1. Roberta
    March 16, 2013 at 9:13 am

    I have been hearing about this on the radio for a couple of months now. Would love to actually see such a machine and watch it work.

    I would think that for it to really impact society it could not be too expensive. Just like how PC’s became a necessary household appliance once the cost came down and the ‘average’ citizen could afford one. )And before PCs, TVs.)

    Things like this is the main reason I do not want to die. I want to see what happens next in society. Where will this new machine take us? Will it improve society or make it worse?

    • March 20, 2013 at 10:02 am

      The fax machine and video phone seemed the stuff of science fiction when I was at school, now the fax machine is virtually obsolete and anyone with a computer or pad can use Skype to see an image of the other party on a telephone call. Is 3D printing the initial phase of matter transfer which was also a staple of scifi.

      In a few years time, will it be possible to stand in a 3D printer in the middle of a Canadian winter and get teleported to a beach in Hawaii?

  2. Alex ka
    March 28, 2013 at 3:44 am

    I remember not too long ago when Blue-ray players were going for over 1K, when 32 gig flash drives were 700 bucks and even when plasma TV’s were 12 thousand dollars. This was not long ago at all. The speed in which technology is moving in this day and age is crazy. I would predict that smaller, cheaper versions of these printers will be available for homes within the next 10 years or so.

    I also don’t believe the craze which some think this new technology will put many industries out of business. Yes there will be some that take a hit if they don’t change and adopt but while some jobs are lost, many new will be created with the existence of this new technology.

    I believe a new way companies will be making money for new products developed is by allowing you to download the 3-D file to this new product and you then printing it on your home 3-D printer.

    This will work very similar to the way musing is bought today through I-Tunes instead of you going out and buying a physical CD. The say can be said for movies, books, and many others.

    There will also be many using it for the wrong reasons (guns were mentioned). Guns have actually already been created by this method as well as high capacity magazines which i believe is not breaking the law since one is allowed to make there own firearms.

    I believe there will be new laws coming to solve the many problems 3-D printing will be causing with people using it for illegal purposes but that’s often the case when technology so ground breaking hits the market.

    I agree that this new technology coming to our homes will maybe be the biggest thing seen since computers and cant wait to see how it continues to develop.
    These are just my thoughts on the subject and some ideas i have had since I started following the development of 3-D printers and what they could mean for us in the future. One thing is for sure, I think its going to be great and cant wait to see what it ultimately brings!!!

    • March 28, 2013 at 8:40 am

      Thank you for your comment Alex, I agree with your points that new companies will make money by selling the 3D files and that governments will attempt to control what can be manufactured by individuals in their own homes. I also believe that this technology will have huge impact, perhaps even more than PCs did and in ways we haven’t even thought of yet.

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