The same way that personal computing became a hotbed of innovation in the early 1970s, 3D printing seems to be experiencing a similar renaissance.
While 3D printers were once huge, pricey devices reserved for the industrial elite, they have lately been adapted to fit on your desktop at home.
All over the world, hobbyist manufacturers are extruding plastic objects for prototyping or simply for fun.
But how important is 3D printing? And should you even care about it?
If you’re a tinkerer or DIY-er, then you should care a lot. The reasons here are obvious – having a 3D printer and being well-versed in how to use it gives you another tool in your belt to tackle problems and create new objects. Did a small and specifically-shaped piece of plastic break in your coffee machine? Now you can replace it in an afternoon without having to call the manufacturer.
Interest among the maker community is so rampant that a number of 3D printing companies have sprung up to sell printers and related hardware. MakerBot, a darling of the 3D printing world, was profitable on its 42nd day in operation. Formlabs ran a Kickstarter to bring its Form-1 printer to market and raised just under $3 million. The maker scene has such a big crush on 3D printers right now that there was even a designated “3D Printer Village” at this year’s New York Maker Faire.
All these facts send a strong message –– there is a large community that will always be paying attention to 3D printing.
Regardless of its relevance, people will still decry it. Criticisms will include “Who is this for?” and “The technology isn’t good enough to become relevant.” If you’re mostly apathetic to the DIY approach, it’s fine not to care about the field. Just be open to the idea that you might change your mind down the road.