Published on : Monday, August 4, 2014
A very few technological advancements have been ballyhooed as that of the 3D printing. As it evolves, 3D printing technology is destined to transform almost every major industry, including the travel industry and change the way of our life, work, and play in the future. After all, all you need is a 3D printer, the theory goes, and anything – from an edible raspberry to a body part – can be yours for the making. For better or worse, the 3D printing industry is poised to transform nearly every sector of the future generation’s lives and jumpstart the next industrial revolution.
Impact of 3D printing in travel industry
For travellers, why drag around the baggage when you could simply print out what you need once you’ve arrived at your destination? Janne Kyttanen, the Finnish artist, designed the entire outfit, down to shoes and bag and all produced through the 3D printer. It was shown in the exhibit called “Lost Luggage” in Rotterdam’s Galerie VIVID.
However, doing such a futuristic thing currently would make little economic or practical sense as 3D printers remain costly, with the cheapest starting at about $500, as do materials, which can cost from $50 to $500 per kilogram. Typical printers can only print with one material at a time, which severely limits the variety of useful items that can be produced. Uploading (or designing) files can be daunting for the technologically challenged, and the process is not instantaneous. It is still a manufacturing process; printing an item can take hours.
It is more like another manufacturing technology. With traditional manufacturing methods remaining inexpensive, a traveler might simply board the flight without any luggage – and just buy all of the items on the cheap after arriving.
The healthcare related applications could one day be a boon for travellers who either have medical conditions or get into an accident overseas. Rather than order a particular orthopaedic or splint from a manufacturer, for example, a hospital could, instead, access a patient’s digital files and print the required item on the spot. Not only health, this can be used for any bespoke item while travelling ranging from lens adapter to shoes.
Implication of 3D printing technology
Even if it sounds like a hyperbole, the 3D printing technology is already affecting travellers in other, less-obvious ways. The most significant may be noticed by the fewest travellers: many new planes manufactured today use 3D printing for at least some of their components. For example, Airbus, announced in March that its next-generation A350 XWB is using a handful of 3D-printed components.
Part of the technology’s draw is that 3D printing can lower manufacturing costs, since for companies like Airbus, it requires fewer tools and prototypes to create a final series of parts. Parts wind up weighing less and requiring fewer raw materials (Airbus found their 3D printed parts weigh 30% to 55% less and use 90% less material than their traditional counterparts), significantly decreasing the energy consumption of the manufacturing process – not to mention making planes themselves lighter and decreasing fuel consumption. Whether those cost savings trickle down to air passengers, however, is anyone’s guess.
Although it might take some few years in the future to implement this new technology in full force, but it is an inevitable thing that is going to happen and change the definition of travelling.