Killer Application for 3D Printing

IN MY post Reality Check for 3D Printing I wrote about a few critical blog posts and news items on 3D printing. The question on the table is: what is the killer application of 3D printing? It is an interesting question and I think there is none. Or at least no specific killer application. What is the killer application for an inkjet printer? What is the killer application for a computer? What is the killer application of the web?

In each of these cases, there is no killer application. When I first showed the web – using mosaic – to my mom and dad, they looked at me and had no clue what I was talking about. None. You could argue that the web is the killer application of the Internet. Or is it email? Or is it my Twitter mobile app? Or maybe Skype? Or all of the above?

Same applies for regular printers. Who can remember The Print Shop (version 23.1 – amazing!) from Broderbund? You could make endless banners with it or front pages for your own photo albums. All neatly printed on your dot matrix printer. Nobody is doing that anymore. The quality was low, to say the least, but still everybody made them. So why do you have a printer? I cannot think of a specific killer application for 2D printers. Though it is useful to have a printer.

When I think about the killer application of 3D printing, I think about personal fabrication. That in itself will mean different things for different people. It could be that an architect or designer want to print their professional designs. Or it can be the unique production of a cool dice for a Warhammer player. I cannot look into the future. But the prospect to design, customize and make your own things at home, design them exactly according to your own specifications while not going to a store, just sounds so appealing to me. What do you think?

Update: Fabricatis wrote down his thoughts on the killer application for 3D printing. Recommended reading!

  • http://www.icatchya.com/ Mark Hampton

    Considering printers, today there is no specific killer app. But I wonder if there was not a dominant use that initially helped get printers into a lot of homes. I would guess that the printer replaced typewriters so the user could get more benefit from a computer. Then as the market for printers got huge the technology advanced leaps and bounds so now they can be used for more diverse things.

    3D printing already has some killer apps at the scale of specific markets. For example printing for casting jewelry, making custom hearing aids, one off surgical implants, rapid prototyping.

    I suspect we got to where we are with 3D printing largely through the killer app of rapid prototyping. But that market is limited.

    You are asking “will there be a killer app for mass consumer adoption”. If I had to guess I would say that killer app will be the ability to recycle 100% of the material. Basically put a previously printed object into the machine and get a new object out. This would offer somewhat sustainable consumerism so people can be guilt free while they fill their house with stuff :)

    • http://robert.schouwenburg.com Robert Schouwenburg

      I like your idea of 100% recycle materials. I can think of custom dinnerware for a special occasion and then recycling it. Or custom toys which get recycled when the kid is done with it. Kids could endlessly create and recreate.

  • Aldora

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  • Stephane

    Perhaps not the killer app. But i developed this app: 3D interactive configurator for building art toy: 
    http://www.octarina.com/?page_id=541 This is a way to bring 3D printing to the mass and let people customize things.

    • http://robert.schouwenburg.com/ Robert Schouwenburg

      Thanks for sharing Stephane!

      I took a look. It is fun to use and easy to understand. It is a good example of how people can create online.

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