If you haven’t seen it yet, check out MakieLab. They recently launched an iPad app to let you design your own toy (a doll), have it 3D printed, then delivered to you. This brought me back to a theme that I think will be significant in 3D printing moving forward -- building interactive experiences.
MakieLab is a great example of additive manufacturing as an enabling technology. The end consumer doesn’t care how the dolls get made, 3D printing just happens to be the process that can turn a one-off custom design around quickly. This isn’t an example of consumers adopting 3D printing, it’s an example of smart people finding a way to use 3D printing to provide a service not otherwise possible. The user is interacting with the process (creating the design), but how the object is made is abstracted from the user.
I think 3D printing will start to augment interactive entertainment, but in a more direct way than hitting the “buy now” button to have your meticulously curated video game avatar shipped to your house in 3 days. Personal 3D printing will enable that manufacturing process to occur in your house. Your kids will spend hours designing their avatar so that they can watch it get made - that’s the fun part! Then they will do it again. And again. This will cost a few dollars in plastic and there won’t be any shipping charges.
When you think about interactive entertainment, videogames are probably the first thing that comes to mind. “Achievements” have become standard in games today. Down the road, will your networked 3D printer let you print trophies instead? Will your virtual achievements become real world rewards? Getting a plastic token in the mail for $60 is never going to make sense. Having an achievement flash up with the option to “Print it Now”, hear your 3D printer spool up, and add a new medal to your trophy? That helps build the interactive experience. It brings the virtual experience into the real world.
This is one of the many promises of 3D printing moving forward -- real-time, on-demand, interactive experiences. We (early adopters and 3D printing enthusiasts) have to create these experiences to get more people involved and move the technology into the mainstream. This is one of many ways that 3D printing will become part of the everyday experience for more and more people in the years ahead.