You may have heard of 3D printing as “the next industrial revolution,” or “something that changes everything.” But this year, get ready for the technology to really take off in the consumer marketplace. The ecosystem needed to support the technology is rapidly coming together, as evidenced by companies like MakerBot, who already introduced the Replicator 2 printer for just about $2,000. Already an integral part of several professional markets, the product will likely become a mainstay in consumer homes in the coming years, with design software already available for free. So a user could, feasibly, already print a 3D object with free, cloud-based software and designs. And soon enough, printers will be available on mass retailers like Amazon, so at this point it’s not if, but when – and that when is looking increasingly like now.
When 3D printing reaching the masses, brands will have ample opportunity to encourage consumers to design and create 3d printed objects in the same way they encourage user-generated content. In fact, Nokia has already released 3D models allowing people to print custom cases.