Business prospects of 3-D printers

Thu, Nov 5, 2015

The Lighter Side

Technology is a magic. Something, which was viewed as supernatural a few years back, is very well a practical happening today.

For all those who are not mindful of what 3D printing is, here is an elaboration. 3-D printer is an electronic device which can be used to build up anything and everything; from pizzas to cookies and cakes, from shoes to coffee mugs, from kid’s toys to the keys of our house, simply everything. This technology has been widely used in prosthetics, and it turns out to produce more efficient and reasonable mechanical limbs for
the physically disabled compared to the traditional manufacturing methods. Dubai is planning to 3-D print an entire office building, and almost everything inside it. Isn’t it MAGICAL? Actually,there’s much more! All you require is a 3-D printer along with the design code of the product you want to build, which is widely available on the web or can be designed on different software available online.

In my view, 3-D printing is plausibly the next ‘BIG THING’. Lately, this technology has started penetrating different areas of business. It’s already perceived to be a $3 billion industry and has been growing rapidly. 3-D printing technology has its own share of opportunities
and obstacles.It has the power to revolutionize the manufacturing industry as a whole. t has profound business prospects, but at the same time, some of them seem to be threatening.

The opportunities posed by 3-D printing are conspicuous while the obstacles presented by this idea are equally appalling. Just imagine, a layman would have the power to manufacture a working gun at his home. It’s difficult to imagine the consequences. The crime rate might shoot
up exponentially. Another major flaw being discussed as a barrier to the business prospects of 3-D printers is the violation of the IP powers and the licensing deals; recently, the 3-D Systems acquired Gentle Giant Ltd., which owned the licensing rights to toy franchise such as Hobble, The Walking Dead, Harry Potter, Alien, and Star Wars. It’s predicted that these companies may lose as much as $100 billion to licensing or IP powers, with the popularity of 3-D printers. This might generate an uncontrolled black market, compared to the way the internet challenged the movie and music industry for copyrights, trademarks and illegal downloads. In the pharmaceutical industry, a researcher at the University
of Glasgow is developing a 3-D printer which will enable patients to print their own medicines, with the help of a chemical blueprint that they’ll get from the pharmacy or on the web. But this too has a darker side, as this technology can lead to the printing of some real fatal drugs, anything from cocaine to ricin, without any government control.

Any innovation comes up with its own set of whites and blacks just as 3-D printing. In my opinion, we should tap the potential business prospects of 3-D printing, also keeping in mind its darker ramifications.

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Kartik Bajaj

MBA 2015-17

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