The Societal Impacts of 3D Printing

As an introduction to this part we conducted an interview. We made sure to interview individuals from all different industries and all of different ages. We wanted to get an idea about how different people percieve the benefits of 3D printing and the impact it will have on them.

While 3D printing seems as having a major impact in society, after conducting the interview it’s clear to see that people are unsure of the benefit of 3D printing for home use whereas, they do see it impacting their business or industry. While conducting our research its easy to see the benefits of 3D printing. The video above really helps illustrate how complex 3D printing is. Companies that are trying to push 3D printing have to publicise 3D printing to the general society. With the likes of Google and HP being involved, 3D printing has a big backing from the industries biggest players. In our opinion, 3D printer’s need to be able to perform more functions if it is to be accepted by the general society. As the video shows, being able to print of household appliances would really appeal to the general public but 3D printers in their current state are limited to do so for a reasonable price.  If 3D printing is adopted by the general public, every individual would be craft manufacturing in some way. 3D printing would possibly be a great facilitator for individuals to innovate in their own homes. People could design new products just by using their 3D printer and software.

Mass Collaboration

‘Collaborative strategy is the synergy between the strategy of a Business and the strategy of its partners to realise the objectives through collaboration’ (Welborn & Kasten, 2003).’  With customers demanding more customisation and personalisation 3D printing allows companies to go a step further in mass collaboration. With the rise of Web 2.0 and possibly moving to Web 3.0 we are all connected in this networked society (Castells,1996). As such, information can be shared easily and therefore projects can be done in a massive scale.

Websites such as Wikipedia, Reddit and niche websites are already primed to mass collaborate (Tapscott,Williams, 2006). Reddit for example is a website which includes various sub-reddit’s. These sub-reddits allow people to talk about special interests such as fitness or gaming. For example, reddit users have come together to create reciepie books for special diets as well as a map of all  reddit users.

Companies are at a stage now where home users will start to buy 3D printers due to it being more affordable. Furthermore, with free software being available (see diffusion of 3D printing page) home users will have all they need to develop prototypes. The graph below shows how a company such as Nike can use mass collaboration and 3D printing. Nike recently released a back to the future trainer which was thought to be ‘self tying’. However, Nike could not develop this and the trainer only looked like the design from the film back to the future

   (Madame Eureka, 2012)

As you can see from this diagram, with free software being  provided by Google, Nike can run a competition to find a trainer that can self tie. Nike can enlist special communities that have an interest in design,fashion and have access to a 3D printer.  Through mass collaboration people can come together to create a new designs for this trainer and send them to Nike. In essence, 3D printing allows for an extra dimension between consumers and companies. Consumers ideas can come to life through 3D printing and allow them to fully illustrate their ideas to companies.

Video games as a facilitator for Mass Collaboration in 3D printing

Minecraft is a game which allows users to create objects layer by layer similar to how 3D printing designs are made. The game has a mass following with over 4 million purchases worldwide. Every user can open up their creations or game world to other users so they can mass collaborate together. Minecraft users are one of the most close-knit communities and have come together to create so amazing objects (Aron, 2011). Minecraft.Print()  was created as an add-on which allows users to take these designs and print them off using a 3D printer.

The following best explains how this software is used to create 3D printing designs:

Minecraft is highly beneficial for 3D printing because it is highly visual, easy to use and  taps into a very loyal fanbase who will spend hours coming up with radical designs for 3D printing (Aron, 2011). This further underlines the fact that 3D printing will be used by the whole population and not just for doctors or mechanical engineers.

Open Source“Bre Pettis, CEO of Makerbot, is a proponent of open source principles where any design uploaded to Makerbot’s community website, Thingiverse, must be shared for free. He has often been quoted about his idea of a “sharing world,” where you won’t need to sell things using money as the exchange” (Langnau L 2012). On the other hand 3D systems allows a user to keep 60% of the sales proceeds as an incentive to upload a CAD file to their cubify website from where other users can access designs. Such open-source communities would save the users the time and effort to design a product before they can actually physically have it. With open sourced software and hardware, Makerbot has created a friendly competition between the users to create as many designs as they can and upload it to Makerbot’s website Thingiverse for other users of the community to access for free, thereby building a platform for new innovations to arise. The video below explicitly explains the idea of the open-source community and how Makerbot’s CNC Cupcake works;


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