3D Printing Has A Strange, Unintended Consequence

Illustration for article titled 3D Printing Has A Strange, Unintended Consequence

So far, the reach of 3D-printing hasn’t extended too far into most of our lives. We still buy appliances, instead of punching specifications into a console. We do our shopping at stores instead of downloading patterns. We cook our food, we don’t print it. But 3D printing is making a major change to our lives, all the same.

A professional model-maker filled us in on the debate that has been raging away mostly hidden from the rest of us — is 3D printing going to kill model-making?


I’m a professional model-maker.... There is a constant debate over the last 20 years or more about when physical models, be it architectural or mechanical, will be obsolete... and if not obsolete, when 3d printing will make model-makers obsolete. Most Model-makers believe never. Most architects, designers and others believe very soon. I just had a discussion with a designer who feels once people who have grown up with VR are mature, that physical models will be an expensive thing of the past.... But there is always something to be said for looking at something you KNOW is actually there, you can see, feel and touch.


Of course, to some degree, that is simply the course of all new technologies. They may not change the world in the ways that we expect them to, or the ways that they promised to, or even in big enough ways for general public notice.

But inevitability, a small corner of the world is utterly, irrevocably changed. Lamplighters didn’t expect to see their entire profession condensed into a single glass bulb with a bit of wiring inside. But, faster than almost anyone at the time could imagine, it did.

3D printing may not quite be the Star Trek replicator of futuristic dream stuff, either now or perhaps even ever. But, in at least in one corner of the world, it may wind up being a transformative technology after all.

Image: Jonathan Juursema


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It will not make much of a change in most of our lives until a 3d printer is as cheap as a microwave, and is as easy to use.