Manufacturing: Do It Yourself?
A 2007 Ten-Year Forecast Perspective
3D printers have lead to rapid prototyping and a made a significant impact on product design. However, rapid prototyping is now morphing into rapid, high-end manufacturing such as hearing-aid production. Early versions of machines that can fabricate electronics and displays alongside mechanical structures will be more widely available by the end of the decade.
3D printers will continue to lower cost for experimentation and small-scale production. In the long run they may lead to microniche production aimed at diverse, idiosyncratic communities previously ignored by mass producers. Microniche, in turn, may lead to peer-to-peer design where objects can be shared online as easily as we currently share music. The rise of open-source product design is inevitable.
A more extreme scenario plays out with the deconstruction of the global economy as each home turns into a personal factory. Although this view is most likely wrong, it does point to the inevitable upset in our traditional producer-consumer models.