3D printing comes to every home, but not as we expect

Inserting “3D printing” and “home” in the same sentence immediately brings to mind the image of a machine that needs to be stored in a room, compact enough, that can produce everything we need in a reasonable amount of time. A thought not for insiders, as anyone with a little knowledge of the instrument well knows that this is difficult to achieve, now and in the future.

It is the technology itself that is not suitable for household use: due to cost, difficulty of use and limited possibilities of use. In other words, when could it be helpful to have a 3D printer at home? Unless it is the home of a creator, a maker, any craftsman, the answer is a sharp “never”. Not only does the maturity of the tool seem completely immature for everyday practical use, but the direction in which additive manufacturing goes, that is, what it turns into an exciting means of production, is completely different. Industrial applications, for example for prototyping objects with a complex design and small and medium-sized mass production. An increasingly widespread presence of 3D printing services that you can leave your project to and have it delivered to your home (here is an example of how this type of service works) as if to say that if you need to print documents, you go to copy shop and you do not buy an entire printer.

The idea is therefore that this technology goes towards satisfying “collective” needs rather than the needs of the individual. This is if we consider the most efficient printers that provide more than satisfactory results and that have costs that are inaccessible even to the small business. The market is filled with models that are much more modest in terms of cost and performance.

Despite this, some of the applications where 3D printing is already more exalted will bring this technology into our homes. But not the whole machine, only the objects they create. We refer in particular to interior design, which is a sector where additive manufacturing positions itself as a real disruptive technology (which is going to revolutionize traditional production processes). On the other hand, it is enough to reflect on the excellent properties of this tool to understand that what is made available to creatives can form a perfect combination.

What are these properties? Let’s start from scratch: Even now, 3D printing in its most refined expressions can render almost all the furniture that adorns a standard home. Customization is the basis of this technology, the diversity of usable materials and usable finishes allows you to reproduce the design of, for example, faucets, wooden furniture, glass chandeliers. Another key feature is the cost-per-click ratio. per capita when printing a product: While traditional productions lower costs as units increase, for 3D printing it has the same cost of generating a piece instead of a hundred. This makes the tool deficient in large series production, but perfect for prototyping and limited production. Ergo, it is in the sophistication of the individual object that this instrument finds its best raison d’être, at least so far.

Think of Ikea’s Thisables project, which was launched in 2019. The Swedish furniture giant has made CAD files available and open to all some design objects designed to help disabled people in some daily actions. In addition to the supporting nature of the project, the special features of these objects must be evaluated: simple designs, but at the same time new, sophisticated. In this case, 3D printing was used to bring innovation and not to copy an existing design. And that is exactly what is expected most from the combination of additive manufacturing and decor: that it comes into our homes with new solutions at affordable production costs.

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