The last few weeks & months have moved breathtakingly fast around the world of 3D printing. Particularly since the Maker Faire event in San Francisco in May, the buzz has been tremendous as more and more people are confronted by the reality of 3D Printing. The Maker Faire event is itself a growing phenomenon, but one that fits perfectly with the advent of 3D printing for the individual maker. Couple this with the advent of simple, easy-to-use 3D design software and the explosion of interest that has been predicted excitedly — and often unrealistically — for many years is materialising in front of our very eyes.
It is also exciting to report that I have lost count of the number of articles, blog posts and references that I have read recently, about 3D printing, in a wide cross section of the press. The Telegraph, the BBC, the NY Times and the Economist are just a few that spring to mind as I write. It is not that long ago that anyone in the right place at the right time would see me dancing around a room, jumping up and down in delight, if just one reference to 3D printing (or RP, or AM, or Fabbing) appeared in an obscure technology section of a trade magazine. I would then proceed to wax lyrical about it. I think those days can now be confined to the annals of history.
Many of these articles are talking about 3DP hitting the mainstream but I don't think we are quite there just yet. Although I do believe that we are right on the cusp — and, contrary to my own musings even within the last few months, I think I will be around to see it. I'm glad I was wrong too.
The other critical area for 3D technologies that is also being much more widely debated and discussed is that of education. Many western economies are facing a skills shortage, specifically for engineering and manufacturing, the UK among them. There are numerous reasons and contributing factors for this, which the bureaucrats will contemplate until kingdom come, but action is needed. Advanced 3D technology, including 3D printing, is a real — and accessible — solution. It is gratifying to see that there are growing numbers of champions that are forcefully promoting the advantages of getting 3D digital technologies into schools and into the hands of children. By doing so, I fully believe that the future of 3D printing — right across the board — will be secured and that the strength of western manufacturing can grow once again and continue to return from the East.