IoT and 3D Printing
The 3D printer in my cubicle keeps printing name tags without my name and only cube number instead—should I be worried about this?
Imagine a future where an “organizational” 3D printer is stationed in every cube. You are working away on a project, when suddenly the printer comes to life. You remotely check it from time to time, just to see what it is printing. As the object begins to take shape, you recognize it to be a nameplate. Eventually, you see your cube number, but a different name has been printed on the nameplate. Am I unemployed? Am I moving to a new cube? These are just a few questions which may come to mind. Something like this situation could very well happen, and maybe sooner than you might think. I have been using 3D printers for more than four years now, and during that time, I have learned several lessons about 3D materials, printing and ultimately how to start getting up to speed on this amazing tech. First off, there are many 3D printers out there in the market right now.
You can purchase printers that sit in your home and print just about anything you can imagine. You can send a picture of yourself off, and get a 3D print of you. Alternatively, there are companies that offer print services where you send them what you want printed and they print it and send it back to you in a matter of days.
Why, then am I talking about this market and technology on a site that focuses primarily on Big data, Cloud and IoT, you may be asking? Well, that is a very interesting question. The first part of that question is simply that 3D printing is a very intriguing market. For small companies which either create or are considering creating new products, a 3D printer can help them move their dream quickly forward. Building architects can easily print out their designs in three dimensions. No more hours of model building; simply create the 3D file and print your building. Making massive changes to your fleet of planes? That’s ok, create the 3D file again and print away.
In the growing world of new and innovative IoT creations and objects, a 3D printer is a great starting point to launch your idea. You can print the object you are considering to help achieve proof of concept. Then, you can iterate the case, the boards and all of the component pieces. You can design precisely how everything fits together. And you can easily figure out how much will actually fit in your creation.
All of this and more helps innovators perform rapid prototyping and save a lot of time and energy in the process. It allows for the real-time changes in your innovation, which in turn helps it move to production faster (in theory, of course). You can also get printable material that conducts electricity; with the use of a 3D printer or pen, you can print in metal or flexible plastic, and with some of the 3D pens, you can even create a Henna-style tattoo on a person (there are pens that print cool – you cannot use a regular 3D pen on a human, for it would not only burn their skin, but isn’t designed to “stick” onto the skin in the first place).
Now, the question is: Will a 3D printer be the centerpiece of the home of tomorrow? I’ve seen various future living spaces featuring 3D printers, and I am not convinced that in the majority of people will have one of these things in their living rooms. I do think a number of 3D printers will exist, however. For the most part , the price is far too high now for most people to invest and have one in their home. But in the next few years, we could see a drop in prices to help make 3D printers more of a mainstay in homes and small businesses.
Where I see this technology really making a huge impact—beyond increasing the velocity of innovation itself—is in schools and universities. There are IoT toolkits you can buy right now that include the “guts” of IoT connections, like Bluetooth, Raspberry PI, Wi-Fi and even cellular connections to cloud-based controls. Combine these IoT gizmo kits with a 3D printer, and you now have the capacity to create IoT devices that include custom forms. Imagine a robot that resembles a Labrador Retriever or a tiny lamp that actually lights up on its own. These are just a few examples of creations that even younger students can dream up.
So, while I believe there probably won’t be a 3D printer in every living room anytime soon, I do think there will be many 3D-printed objects we can use in our everyday lives. If you wander the various internet sites that offer you 3D objects you can print on demand, or the various companies that have created books to create 3D objects with 3D pens, you will find almost anything you could possibly want to print and use. For schools, inventors, building architects and people that simply dream in all three dimensions, the awesome reality of 3D printing is nearly here.
Now, if someone could direct me to the nearest body shop that can 3D print a fender for my newly dented car, I would be thrilled!
By Scott Andersen