Has 3D printing more potential to create or destroy jobs?

3D Scanning a large casting with the Z Scanner Z800 3D ScannerThose working in traditional rapid prototyping services jobs almost certainly think 3D printing is a technology that actually destroys job but it seems that at the same time it is likely to create jobs elsewhere and create whole new businesses as well as empowering freelancers and one person businesses.

As for those with skills for rapid prototyping services that rely on molding plastics and foams to make models that took a lot longer and were much less accurate than can be made by 3D printing they can potentially adapt their skills to use 3D printers though at the same time a designer with basic training can send a CAD design to print with a few simple clicks.

It is designers who are able to work with CAD that are likely to benefit most from 3D printing and some predict a shortage of skills, unless today’s school children start using these tools and doing their own rapid prototyping services in classes. Even then though with the size of the 3D printing industry set to double by 2015 it could be there aren’t even enough college students currently studying these skills.

For those with the right skills there is a lot of potential, this includes with rapid prototyping services where people will need traditional design skills but also CAD skills and the ability to adapt to a rapid prototyping services process that will be faster but actually use more physical models for testing.

What about this potential to actually create jobs though? This comes not in rapid prototyping services, where most 3D printing is done at the moment, but in the next generation of small start up businesses who could be small teams or individuals able to design their own products and then take them to market without having to invest heavily, or get the backing of an existing manufacturer.

An individual with simple CAD software such as Google’s free Sketch-up software can right now design a product and sell the file for owner’s of 3D printers to make themselves. This is something that currently makes a bit of extra money for budding student designers and others but this is only limited by how many people have printers.

With the price of simple mono or dual colored printers now such that hobbyists and small businesses can afford them the numbers of them will only grow and could explode once the choice of CAD designs to buy or even get for free on line reaches critical mass.

As for selling to those who don’t have 3D printers if you have a printer you can actually go into production with products, you may struggle to compete on price with traditional manufacturing but if you have an exclusive product this isn’t an issue and prices of materials should keep coming down and printing speeds going up.

There are a lot more products that are now practical that weren’t before as well and business types that don’t really exist now will spring up: this includes Robot Nation a new startup letting you design your own robot online and have it printed and sent to you. Other businesses will likely include more gift type items and promotional items for use by businesses; a while new level of manufacturing could also become practical with short runs that wouldn’t be profitable without 3D printing technology; surely then there will be new jobs in 3D printing in the years to come.

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