It's that time of year when we must reflect on the past and look forward to the future. While there were many interesting developments in 3D printing during 2007, the most newsworthy item was far and away DesktopFactory's announcement of their sub-$5000 3D printer.
But what about 2008? What should we expect to see? We're not certain, but there are three things we'd like to see in 2008:
- Sub-$5000 3D printers become generally available. Yes, DesktopFactory's device will no doubt eventually emerge from the beta-sphere, but it sure would be nice for them to have some competition. Well, maybe not for them, but for us! Competition would lower prices, raise the profile of 3D objects and introduce the concept of 3D printing to a much wider audience.
- Design libraries appear. If we are to have 3D printers in our offices and later our homes, we'll need something to print on them. We would like to see Internet-based libraries of 3D designs suitable for downloading by 3D printer owners. Free or commercial, it doesn't matter to us. What matters is that when I need a spoon, I can quickly find a design and print one without having to crank up difficult-to-use CAD software and design one from scratch.
- Media standardization. We've seen many different forms of 3D print media, including various brands of proprietary goop, sugar, bizarre powdery substances and even common 2D dead-trees (paper). This is no way to build the massive industry 3D will hopefully become. Sooner or later we'd better start standardizing on media - not specific formulas initially, but at least the type of media. In the 2D world, you have really only two kinds of media: those for inkjets and for lasers. This sure isn't so in the 3D world - yet.