Gartner Predicts a Disruptive Future for 3D Printing
Kyle Maxey posted on January 30, 2014 |

3d printing, bio materials, bioprinting, IP, theft, retailIn a recent report, industry analysts at Garner have concluded that 3D printing is set to disrupt a number of aspects of everyday life ranging from commerce to ethics.

According to the new report, the rapidly accelerating pace of bioprinting innovation will soon force society into an ethical debate about the role of artificially created, living tissues. In fact, Gartner believes this debate may begin as early as 2016.

"3D bioprinting facilities with the ability to print human organs and tissue will advance far faster than general understanding and acceptance of the ramifications of this technology," said Pete Basiliere, research director at Gartner. “These [bioprinting] initiatives are well-intentioned, but raise a number of questions that remain unanswered. What happens when complex 'enhanced' organs involving nonhuman cells are made? Who will control the ability to produce them? Who will ensure the quality of the resulting organs?"

Outside of the burgeoning field of bioprinting, additive manufacturing will also have a say in the evolution of big-box stores. Multi-channel retailers like Macy’s & Staples will have to adapt to customers’ needs, providing on-demand printing services for products that were once sold on shelves, as well as those that are invented at home.

“Some retailers are already selling 3D printers to consumers, and as they become more readily available, consumers could use them to 'manufacture' their own custom-designed products," said Miriam Burt, research VP at Gartner.  "We also expect to see 3D copying services and 3D printing bureaus emerge where customers bring 3D models to a retailer or provider and have increasingly high-end parts and designs printed, not just in plastics but in materials including ceramics, stainless steel, and cobalt and titanium alloys."

With this growth Gartner also predicts a marked spike in IP theft.

“The very factors that foster innovation — crowdsourcing, R&D pooling and funding of start-ups — coupled with shorter product life cycles, provide a fertile ground for intellectual property theft using 3D printers," said Mr. Basiliere. "Already, it's possible to 3D print many items, including toys, machine and automotive parts, and even weapons."

To keep up with these quickly changing currents, businesses will likely have to innovate faster and place a premium on creating proprietary material designs.

While change is usually difficult to manage, it’s also one of the greatest drivers of innovation. As 3D printing continues to disrupt markets I expect we’ll see novel solutions come to the rescue of seemingly impossible problems.

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

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