Some stock analyst believe that 3D printing will “fundamentally change the way we make things.” Already, the technology has upended the prosthetics market. Coders, doctors, and fathers can now make a prosthetic for $50. A usual prosthetic can cost upwards of $2500. This extraordinary reduction in cost makes 3D printing highly competitive. Not only are the prosthetics cheaper, they are individually customized in style, and replacement costs are next to zero.
This remarkable technology has caught the eye of crowd funding efforts. Enabling the Future has raised millions to 3D print prosthetics for war stricken countries. Marvel Comics has sponsored Enable the Future because kids all over the world want their prosthetics to be in the likeness of Marvel Super Heroes. The value 3D printing has added to the world is remarkable. However, should we invest in this technology as a whole?
Most technology analyst blogs want everyone to invest heavily in 3D printing. They entice you with feel good investments as the profits mostly benefit small communities and not large corporations. They promise mind-blowing innovations such as “3D cars” and “3D clothing.” Yet, many of these blogs are remiss in letting potential investors know about the struggles 3D printing has faced and continues to face.
There are no 3D printed orthotics. For all the innovation and design in prosthetics, coders, doctors, and fathers cannot make a sturdy orthotic. This is because the materials used in 3D printing are plastic. Although this plastic is easily malleable, it is not strong enough to support the weight of a child. 3D printing is limited by its materials, and may have to dramatically increase costs to 3D print sturdier, higher quality, goods. Unfortunately, the world will have to wait to see the first 3D printed and usable car.
If a technology is going to “fundamentally change the way we make things,” it must be more than a one trick pony. The technology must be able to change and lower the costs for a plethora of goods. 3D printing has the potential, but we are years away from a 3D printing revolution. New technologies are new and exciting, but you have to ask yourself, what can this technology feasibly accomplish, before investing.