Are 3D printers worth your time [and money]?

 In 3D Printing, Education

Have you ever wondered if owning your own 3D printer would be worth it? Or perhaps the idea of investing in one never crossed your mind until now.

As our world evolves before our eyes, it can be tough to determine which of the many technological breakthroughs of today will have any significance in the future. There is no point in investing in expensive technology that will only be as useful as a floppy disk in just a mere couple of years. So, how does one distinguish which technology will actually be worth your time [and money]. We think the trick is to differentiate the inventions from the innovations.

Inventions are the fads of the tech-world; a novelty that can be popular yet tends to be short-lived, such as the ‘Palm Pilot’ or ‘Heelys’.

Innovations, on the other hand, are value-add technologies that are both popular and have the potential for long-term influence on the market. Their trendiness and life-changing potential making them worthy of investment.

3D printers: Invention or Innovation?

So, now we get to the burning question: are 3D printers a worth-your-while innovation or a maybe-skip-this-one-out invention?

To help answer this question, I’ll be exploring the real world applications of this technology, its potential for future use as well as its good ‘ol popularity status.

Let’s jump straight in. Although 3D printers or additive manufacturing systems only really started becoming talked-about in 2011, they were actually first created in 1986 by Charles ‘Chuck’ Hall. Today, over three decades later, 3D printers are being used more and more in game-changing applications in industries such as:

  • Architecture and Construction
  • Healthcare and Medical
  • Aeronautics and Space
  • Textiles and Fashion
  • Entertainment and broadcasting
  • Industrial goods
  • Mechanics
  • Robotics
  • Automotive
  • Maritime
  • Drones
  • Retail
  • Food
  • Education
  • Energy
  • Electronics
  • Optics
  • Art
  • …Should I go on?

This list will undoubtedly continue to grow as our world changes and a seemingly limitless number of application opportunities of 3D printing are discovered and invented.

Do 3D printers check the “popularity” box? Definitely.

Is it a market-changing technology? Incredibly.

The already widespread interest and vast industrial application of this technology suggests that it will surely not be disappearing anytime soon and that its use, function and design will undoubtedly advance. It’s actually already started. One recent advancement is the option of using recycled plastic “filament” (it looks like gigantic plastic thread on a spindle and is the material that gets melted in the 3D printer and used to print with). The sustainability of this filament material will only add to the vitality of 3D printers in our eco-conscious age. From trash to treasure – imagine being able to recycle plastic into a usable form that you can print almost anything with.

3D printing technology is also set to be out of this world – to play a pivotal role in the Mars relocation mission by helping the first human settlers print everything from tools to temporary housing. The 3D Printers has not only ingrained itself within our present culture but it seems as well as in future colonies to come – earning itself the proud and definite title of ‘innovation’.

Printing Tangible Value

Innovation vs. Invention – 3D printers are undeniably innovative pieces of technology that have proven societal value, especially on an industrial level. However, this does not completely answer the question of whether or not they are worth YOUR time and money. Would owning a 3D printer bring tangible value to you and your family?

While I cannot make that decision for you, I can share some of the experiences that we have had at GO Lab. First off – it’s important to say that we have been fortunate enough to work in an environment that has access to this technology and see, first-hand, its vast range of application possibilities. It has been especially exciting witnessing the impact that this accessibility has on the young and curious minds of our learners. We have found direct value in three main areas: Education, Entrepreneurship and DIY.

  • Education – From homework assignments to projects to testing theory comprehension, we have seen 3D printers play a versatile and valuable role in creating an engaging learning experience. Engagement is a fundamental aspect of effective learning, sustaining learner interest and understanding. The process of digitally designing and physically printing with this technology allows learners to exercise cognitive thinking as they transform their conceptual ideas into tangible realities. Learning is quite literally brought to life with 3D printers.
  • Entrepreneurship – Many people have ideas; but it takes practice, perseverance and a certain way of thinking to become an entrepreneur. A 3D printer is a useful tool for aspiring entrepreneurs as it allows them to physically develop multiple ideas, and test and improve their designs almost instantaneously. 3D printing technology is the perfect and most efficient way to create a Proof of Concept [POC] – to demonstrate the purpose of an idea, concept or theory and showcase that it has the potential for real-world application. A POC that is both accurate and aesthetically pleasing is a vital asset for any entrepreneur looking for external funding and investments. With a 3D printer, a learner (and anyone else for that matter) can go from educational applications to exploring entrepreneurial ideas in no time. Who knows – you may be raising the next world-changing entrepreneur – why not give them the chance to shine?
  • DIY – There is something glorious about gaining your independence from the circle of consumerism by “doing it yourself.” There are a growing number of people every day that discover the delight of DIY, and a 3D printer takes this to a whole new level. From household objects like picture frames and oven leg extensions to tools like pliers and bolts – the internet is packed with 3D digital design files and online resources such as thingyverse, making it is easier than ever to build and repair almost anything in your home or workspace.

The Softer Side

By having a 3D printer accessible to you and your family, the value isn’t only limited to the tangible gains. There are many soft skills and benefits that can be developed from using this technology.

  • Creativity is exercised and expanded by using your imagination throughout the design process, allowing innovative thinking to evolve. Creativity can also be expressed and enjoyed in the form of creating crafts and designing art. Creativity breeds understanding, empathy and innovation – significant skills to succeed in both professional and personal aspects of life.
  • Problem solving is integrated into the 3D printing experience, whether it is transforming ideas to designs to prints; or deciding on something that you think is worth printing. This technology gives you the opportunity to constantly find new ways to do things, and it is that mentality that will help solve real-world issues.
  • Technological fluency and confidence – this one should speak for itself. Learners as young as 9 years old are already navigating and using the Lab 3D printer by themselves. Considering I had just mastered cursive hand writing at that age [and I’m only 23], it’s safe to say that times have changed! If you and your family don’t want to get left behind, perhaps it’s time you changed too?
  • So much more – This technology and the experiences that come with it are empowering. You can engage with learning content, become an entrepreneur, explore your creativity, create new objects and even print the spare parts to fix old ones. A 3D printer is both an opportunity to inspire innovative thinking and a tool to use with everyday life.

The Verdict

3D printers are versatile and valuable innovations. This technology is becoming increasingly popular and is already largely responsible for the rate at which things are developing at an industrial level. 3D printers have already influenced parts of our culture that most are unaware of – and this technology will continue to shape the world as we know it. Not only will owning one help you and your family print useful tools and create new and interesting items, but it will give you hands on experience with a technology that is going to be around and used throughout the future. From education and entrepreneurial benefits to creativity, problem solving and confidence – this empowering technology is a must-have.

To invest or not to invest? – the choice is yours. Times are changing and will continue to do so, but one thing for certain is that 3D Printers are here to stay. Why not give you and your family the opportunity to Switch On to the possibilities of the future? Because as they say, “the future starts now”.

Feeling inspired and ready to step into the future?

Check out our Prusa I3; it is easy to navigate, affordable and comes pre-assembled.

Still on the fence and not quite ready to commit?

Feel free to contact one of our Lab Agents who will happily give you the low-down on this high-tech printer.
Call: +27 (0) 76 587 3567 | Email: info@golab.co.za

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