April 14th, 2012

Replicators – Are We Prepared Enough?

Not so long ago, replicators were a fixture of science fiction, a dream and nothing more. As 3D printing technology advances however, we are nearing an age where replicating many things is entirely possible. In fact, this technology is advancing to the point where the average Joe has access to a 3D printer and can easily manufacture spare parts, or little tools.

3D printing has gone well beyond its early stages in the 1980’s when printers were incredibly expensive, the materials quite limited, and access restricted only to the most advanced companies. Now, we are facing a situation where 3D printing has moved beyond the fanciful into the commonplace, and the implications could be staggering.

Imagine a world where just about anybody could create what they needed, on the spot, so long as they had the proper materials and their own 3D printer. What would this do to manufacturing companies? Although this may still be a ways off into the future, if we do not begin preparing for this eventuality soon, we may get left behind.

Replicating simple items such as hand tools, small car parts and common items is already quite possible. Although access to the materials needed for these items is still somewhat limited, this is changing quickly. As the prices for 3D printers drop below $1000, more people will begin realizing the benefits of being able to create just what they need, when they need it.

How can companies prepare themselves for this eventuality? As always, rather than fear new technology, it is best to embrace it and find a way to make it work for you. Patents may become more important than ever for many items, and it may become necessary to facilitate replication rather than stand against it and let your competitors take over.

While we’re still quite a few years away from mass production of replicated items, the time to learn how to deal with this eventuality is right now.

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