Printed tool 390.
(photo credit: Screenshot)
There’s always a “next big thing.” In the early 1980’s the computer was “the
next big thing.” Then the Internet was “the next big thing.”
while both those technologies and the technology we use to connect to them
continue to morph and change (think speed, size, desktops to laptops to tablets
to smart phones), there’s another “next big thing” on the horizon.
There are new applications that change they way the computer and the Internet
are used and the demographics they are targeted for (think Pinterest, Skype and
social recommendations like KLM airlines’ “sit near people with specific
interests”). I’m not talking about those.
I’ve been looking into
something recently, which I think could very possibly be “the next big thing” in
the sense the computer and the Internet were. I personally believe it will be so
big, in fact, that I’ve been spending hours of my time researching, networking
and brainstorming how to be a part of this coming revolution and profit off it –
and so should you.
Imagine that move to a new home and you (or the
movers) are deep in the middle of reassembling a piece of furniture. Suddenly
you realize that one of the bolts that you need to secure a key element got lost
somewhere in transit. What do you do?
In the old days (read: until today!) you
would need to find a replacement part. You’d have to go around and hope to
obtain one from whatever hardware store happened to be nearby. And if you
couldn’t buy one just like it, you’d simply have to make due with some
substitute that hopefully wouldn’t look too hideously out of place.
you can just print out a three-dimensional (3-D) bolt from the next big thing –
the 3-D printer. Yes! With the advent of these new printers, you could simply,
literally, print a new nut or bolt in your own home, and the problem is solved.
It’s not science fiction; it’s science fact.
These printers exist and
they’re turning out car parts, tools and even a replacement human jaw. Google
the words “3-D wrench National Geographic” to see a short video clip about how
astronauts could create any tool they needed in space by simply having the
design of the tool transmitted to a printer in their spacecraft where the tool
was then printed off – in 3-D.
When these printers first came out they
cost thousands of dollars. But just like the cost of computers came down with
demand from consumers, the cost of the 3-D printer is rapidly coming down. There
are basic, inexpensive units available for as low as $300. Or, consider spending
up to several hundred thousand dollars for top-of-the-line versions with all the
bells and whistles.
If you’re handy with tools, you won’t have to spend
anything. Many of these systems are open-source: meaning that the plans and
instructions for building them are available for anyone to download from the
Internet and modify and build at home.
Another mind-blowing aspect of
these machines is that since they can print in 3-D, they can actually have
children (that’s right, you read that correctly!). They can print replacement
parts for themselves as well as new printers from scratch.
In time these
printers will transform everyday lives as well as businesses. Artists have
already begun experimenting with producing 3-D art. Businesses can now create
in-house prototypes of new designs and inventions (Nike is using them for
The possibilities range from medical (printing
expensive custom hearing aids in mere hours instead of days or weeks) to
practical (allowing for gifts to be custom made in ways that were previously
I’m exploring is the use of 3-D printing for food. Imagine
a message hidden inside of food that would only be readable once the food was
sliced: custom-shaped foods for specific occasions, or to help peas and carrots
appeal to finicky eaters.
There’s a lot of promise for businesses of all
types to use this technology. It could even, possibly, bring back manufacturing
jobs from foreign countries and shave many days off delivery times for your
From military to civilian, from business to home use, this is the
next big thing to follow the computer and the Internet. As an astute
businessperson (after all you read my column!), how could I not tell you about
it so you have a step ahead with your finger on the pulse of the future?
are also sites like shapeways and Ponoko that allow you to upload a design for
you, and they print it in 3-D.
I am very interested in hearing from
readers who have been or are involved with 3-D printing of any sort.
where did I put my car keys again? Never mind that, I’ll just print another
set...email@example.com Issamar Ginzberg is a rabbi, businessman,
public speaker and marketer.