3-D printing, long a prospected technology of the future, may soon become as ubiquitous as touch screen technology.


3-D printers, which are available on the market today, can produce highly customized objects, even sophisticated ones, by printing thin layers of plastic, metal, ceramics and other materials. 3-D printing may soon be a fixture in every industry, from entertainment, to food, to bio- and medical- applications. It won’t be a direct producer of manufacturing jobs, but it also won’t replace existing manufacturing anytime soon.

President Obama mentioned this burgeoning technology during his State of the Union address last week, expressing hope that it will be a way to rejuvenate American manufacturing. “A once-shuttered warehouse is now a state-of-the-art lab where new workers are mastering the 3-D printing that has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything,” he said.

In addition to the lab (a federally financed manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio), schools are also embracing the technology. The University of Virginia has been working to incorporate 3-D printers into programs spanning kindergarten through high school in Charlottesville in order prepare students for a future in manufacturing. Researchers at the University of Southern California said in 2010 that in another decade we could build a home using a 3-D printer (however, Softkill Design, a London architecture collective, announced plans to assemble the first such home later this year and in a single day). In addition, China is also contributing to the trend by driving down prices for the machines even though the technology may undermine some of its manufacturing advantages.

This technology could mean a change not only in a media sense, but also in the way we go about our daily lives. Products we see advertised in magazines and on blogs could be ours, immediately, with a command. I don’t know how this technological progression will play out, but I would sure like to see printable pizza delivery soon.