From the dawn of the Pony Express until now—and I suspect into the foreseeable future—commerce has demanded that we be able to get a product from one place to another in the quickest and cheapest way possible.
Nearly all of us have experienced retail in this way. When I was a kid, you got a catalog, filled out an order form and sent it in to receive your product. Soon that became phone and fax orders. Today, we order things online, with many online retailers using advanced algorithms and strategically placed warehouses around the country so that people that purchase things from them can get them as fast and as cheaply as possible.
What’s the next step? There’s been a lot of speculation around sending products digitally. That’s already happened to a lot of products that we consume. We already download music, books and newspapers from the web. But what about other products? We certainly can’t download a chair, table or a new case for our phones—or can we? The solution may be 3D printing.
Eric Schimelpfenig writes about using emerging technologies for business growth and home improvement for The Home Depot, which carries a wide selection of 3D printers and accessories. He also uses and teaches 3D printing and CNC fabrication and has helped design and build digitally fabricated homes, geodesic domes, and many other cutting-edge projects.