Terry Wohlers of Wohlers Associates, a consulting firm specializing in manufacturing technology, recently offered his opinion of 3D printing's effects on consumers. The premise of his article is that he disagrees with the notion of home users being able to print arbitrary parts or equipment on demand.
We believe this will indeed occur, but agree with Wohler that it will take some time to appear. He correctly points out that there would be difficulties in obtaining the correct material to match a part for a given object and also indicates software licensing issues with downloading 3D models. He does suggest that some home manufacturing will occur, but not for personal use. He forsees small, one-person custom manufacturing shops that will build unusual items for web buyers, in a market that will grow to massive proportions.
We believe Wohler to be correct, but view these as mere steps on the way to a much more interesting future. In a future post we will propose a our vision of a future timeline of events for desktop manufacturing.