3D Printing of the Future?


How often have you lost or broken a piece of a machine and rendered it useless? It’s always annoying when a small part of something breaks and the only thing you can do to fix it is buy something completely new. Digital fabrication has the potential to fix this problem. In the past decade digital fabrication has become an essential in the design process of many people. Digital fabrication uses computer automated fabrication tools for various construction methods, such as 3D printers and laser cutters.

Instead of using 3D printers to create models of buildings or light fixtures, a practical possibility for the future for 3D printing would be printing spare product parts. This opens the door to extending the life of an object if its parts are discontinued or expensive to order from the manufacture. Ideally, an online 3D warehouse full of thousands of parts, with designs released from companies themselves, would be available for download. Once the file for the object is on your computer you can either print it on your own 3D printer, once they become more reasonably priced. For now, however, the file could be sent to a commercial 3D printing company and mailed directly to your home.

A few weeks ago I bought a shoe rack at target. While putting it together I broke two of the clips that is suppose to connect the racks to the frame. I now own a four tiered shoe rack with 2 racks that sit crooked and cannot connect to the frame. In the future, it would be nice if it were possible for me not to buy a new $20 shoe rack, but instead be able to print out 2 plastic clips that hold the rack to the metal frame. It can be argued that digital fabrication is a cost saving and a “green” way of fixing a product, since one does not need to buy an entirely new object.


On a similar note, a small online shoe business, Continuum, has begun selling 3D printed shoes. The style, color, and heel height are customizable. This is being called “user-designed fashion.”  The discovery of digital fabrication has opened up new possibilities in the design world. If you have $900 to splurge on a pair of unique and crazy looking shoes, here you go!


One comment

  1. Reblogged this on Architecture in Transformation and commented:

    I find this article to be very insightful and a very intriguing idea for the future. As you stated in your writing, I also find it very annoying when putting something together and a piece does break and you have to try and than rig it together so it is still operable. The only real issue that I could see with the idea of being able to 3d print extra parts is that it would not be as profitable for the companies that make those products.

    Unfortunately for many of us who are constant consumers of many types of products, you may realize that they really do not last as long as you would hope. Though the companies may not admit to it, I believe this is done on purpose so that you are forced to buy that product again. If the companies were to provide that ability to just print their pieces, you would have to buy their products much less.

    3d printing is a somewhat new product that is constantly being able to print at larger and larger scales. It will be interesting to see where the 3d printers lead to and maybe in the future you could have 3d printed furniture or even a small house. Regarding the printing of broken pieces, if companies would provide the means to allow this, it could revolutionize the market of products as well as 3d printers themselves. We can only speculate what the future brings, but I do believe 3d printers will become something you do not just see in the Digital Fabrication Lab of school but on many studio desks.

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