Buying into global 3D printing disruption to do good and learn more

Here at Disruptive, we might be guilty of intent when it comes to disruption. We might even be guilty of liking what we’re doing. What is certain, however, is that the technologies that we are passionate about sharing have caused high levels of disruption in many sectors and continue to do so. This 3D printing ecosystem is an evolving array of digital and physical technologies that are being used to disrupt the way things are made. One of the interesting nuances to notice about this evolving ecosystem, I believe, is that ‘the way things are made’ is not just about the way they are produced but also the way they are developed and distributed. Following the exponential growth of the 3D printing ecosystem over the last decade in particular there are now so many different components of it that tracking the multitudinous directions it has branched off into can be dizzying. It is precisely this diversity that gives me cause for great excitement whereby the opportunities for improvement, changing paradigms completely and working for the greater good are all openly available to us with these technologies. In a world where things go horribly wrong, often for no apparent reason, but sometimes as the result of the human condition to prosper at all costs, the technological tools at our disposal can serve as a powerful reminder that how we choose to apply them is very much in our hands. Across the globe, 3D printing has already empowered and enabled people to make completely new things that were never possible before in a cost-effective way. Global communications, file sharing via the cloud, local 3D printers and people that care all make it possible to develop, customise and make products when and where they are most needed. Perhaps the most heartening example of this is the e-NABLE network. The organisation’s updated website immediately draws a smile when you see that collage of smiling young faces. It’s a not for profit — and it’s a good job they are, because you simply cannot put a price on that! The phenomenon of 3D printing accessible, economical and, frankly rather cool prosthetic hands to the taste of their young recipients is growing week on week. It’s both repetitive and glorious in its exponential growth. It also serves to show how a model like this can be applied globally when people buy in to the intent as well as the facilitating technology. In a similar way to the exponential expansion of 3D printing prosthetics around the world, 3D printing has enabled unprecedented access to global history and links to our past. There is a beautiful irony exemplified by the new bridge between the digital and the physical worlds that allow extraordinary insights into parts of history that have not been accessible before the disruptive technologies of 3D scanning and 3D printing were put in the hands of historians that are learning about advanced technology in the present. And of course, 3D printing has allowed a new generation to disrupt the status quo and find new and innovative ways of doing the same thing in a better way –concept development, prototyping and testing are all good examples of this. Additive technologies have seen these age-old, necessary development processes being achieved faster and better – a definite win:win! Whatever your position in the 3D printing ecosystem, or whether you are currently outside of it and looking for a way in, your perspective is important and how you connect with the rest of the ecosystem is important too. Feature image courtesy of twobee at  

About Rachel Park

Rachel is a passionate advocate of additive manufacturing/3D printing technologies and the industry that has sprung up around it. However, as the hype and hyperbole has gathered momentum, her aim is always to offer a reasoned voice in the midst of inflated expectations and to cut through the noise in order to provide a realistic outlook of how things are.