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Healthcare will never be the same again
The cheap and lightness of material, as well as the precision of parts made possible through 3D printing software, has already improved reconstructive procedures -- and made it possible for those who have lost limbs to be equipped with prosthetics they may not otherwise have been able to afford or have access to.
In the next five years, we can expect this trend to continue, and perhaps 3D printed parts will become commonplace for the next generation of surgeons.
3D printed vehicles, jewelry, cakes and art will be commonplace
There are several companies that have jumped on the 3D bandwagon to offer 3D printing services to consumers that cannot afford their own machinery at home.
Shapeways, an online firm, allows artists, designers and consumers to create and upload their own designs before choosing materials -- whether plastic, stainless steel, silver or ceramic -- prints them, and ships the products worldwide. The service is in such high demand that weeks are required before products are shipped. MakerBot recently opened a store that lets customers download schematics for products to print at home.
These businesses have been formed due to investment and innovation in the industry, and rising competition as well as potential profit will make more businesses join the fray.
We predict that the low cost of production and a decline in the price of 3D printers will prove to be the catalyst for the industry to expand, and eventually, 3D-printed products will be commonplace -- in the same way that smartphones replaced feature phones.
Image credit: Screenshot via Shapeways
Big names will get involved
All of this attention has already grabbed the attention of household names including Hewlett-Packard, Strayasys and Epson, but don't be surprised if other companies jump on the bandwagon.
Apple, IBM, Amazon and Microsoft are just some firms that may decide 3D printing has its uses. Whether it be through implementing 3D printing to cut down on production costs and improve efficiency in supply chains, or directly developing a way to create cheap 3D printers for the home, big brands are likely to want a slice of the action.
Amazon, for example, could create an online store to compete with Shapeways and offer 3D printing of files, or Google may decide to set up a schematics programme for the design and sharing of 3D files. Microsoft has built 3D printer support in to Windows 8.1, and has released an app to help you create your own objects.