Why 3D Printing Is Kicking Off The 4th Industrial Revolution

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When you think of 3D printing, you probably think of Makerspaces and clubs where people use small 3D printers for personal projects, like knick-knacks and figurines. We’re used to thinking of it as a hobby, not something that affects our everyday lives and even changes the world. 

The truth is, though, 3D printing is already starting to do just that. Before we know it, it will kick off a 4th industrial revolution that every industry will be able to participate in, from cosmetics to robotics to space rockets. Not only is it set to reinvigorate the world economy, but it also remains an easily accessible way for people from all walks of life to be creative. 

Below, we lay out the top 4 reasons why 3D printing is sparking the 4th industrial revolution, and why you need to be aware of how this remarkable technology can be used in your life. 

3D printers come in all different sizes, from small enough to fit in your bedroom to large enough to produce rockets for NASA. This means that anyone – yes, even you – can obtain a 3D printer and start your own little miniature factory. You can manufacture anything: toys, dishes, cosplay armor, containers, and so much more. There are patterns upon patterns of objects you can create online, and a lot of them are available for free and can be found through a simple Google search. 

Reason #1: Anyone Can 3D Print 

One of the things makes an industrial revolution so, well, revolutionary is how accessible it is to the average person. Until you can find an application for it in your home, you may wonder what’s so great about it, even as big companies like NASA and Ford are using 3D printers in their manufacturing processes. Fortunately, you can buy your own 3D printer or access one at a Makerspace workshop so you can see what it’s all about. 

Reason #2: You Can 3D Print Anywhere 

This idea of easy access to 3D printing is already being applied in surprising and innovative ways. NBC reported that a North Sea oil rig was using a 3D printer to make replacement parts right there in the middle of the sea. This saves them time, energy and the cost of dropping in parts or going ashore to get them. 

Imagine being anywhere in the world and able to manufacture whatever you need on the spot. No matter what your profession or hobby is – nurse, plumber, piccolo player – you can make the objects you need to keep doing what you love without having to rely on someone else or being at the mercy of shipping delays. It’s like having access to your own personal miniature factory. That is the present and future of 3D printing. 

3D printer prints test samples in space
Made in space – 3D printer printing test samples while printer is in microgravity glove box – NASA, Public Domain Dedication

You can even be in OUTER SPACE and use a 3D printer. In fact, the astronauts in the International Space Station are already doing just that. It makes sense: it’s a lot more efficient and cost-effective to just manufacture replacement parts and supplies in space instead of trying to get them from Earth. Imagine how this technology could also be used when humans travel to Mars. The possibilities are endless. 

Reason #3: It Encourages Human Creativity

Humans are creative by nature, but in the modern Western world, we often get the creativity beat out of us. Most of us spend 8 hours a day (or night) working at a job we don’t love. Then we come home, exhausted in body and mind, and we have just enough time to rest up so we can do it all over again the next day. It’s a vicious cycle that leaves very little room for inspiration and free thinking.  

3D printing liberates the imagination. After all, it’s a machine that can make almost anything, just like our mind’s eye. What better way to rekindle that old and dying spark of creativity than by taking bits of plastic and creating something new, maybe even useful out of it? It opens up our minds, challenges us and encourages us to think of exciting new ways to make things. 

Reason #4: You Can 3D Print Just About Anything 

When we’re thinking in terms of how this technology is kicking off a 4th industrial revolution, we have to think about all the innovative and amazing ways it is being applied. L’Oreal (as in the makeup company) is using 3D printers to develop synthetic skin that can be used for cosmetics tests. Scientists are slowly working toward 3D printing human organs for use in transplants. In many cases, we’re still learning the full potential of 3D printing, but it’s coming along, slowly but surely. 

In the meantime, companies both big and small are recognizing that potential and putting it to use in their own factories. Soon, 3D printing will fully emerge as the 4th industrial revolution.

3D printing of face shields
3D Printing of Face Shields – Jan Beránek, Creative Commons License

To Recap

Let’s recap. In this article we laid out 4 reasons why 3D printing is kicking off a 4th industrial revolution. 

  1. Anyone can 3D print
  2. You can 3D print anywhere
  3. It encourages human creativity
  4. You can 3D print almost anything

As technology progresses, it’s important to stay up to date with what’s happening so you can participate in it and take part in its benefits. 3D printing is cost effective, easy to do, portable and an industry that you definitely want to keep an eye on.