How 3D Printing Will Reinvent Commerce As We Know It

Oct 10, 2013 12:49 PM  By

I grew up in the 1970s and 80s. Matter of fact, I read George Orwell’s 1984 IN 1984 and realized that, well, my Frankie-Says-Relax-t-shirt-wearing, Ghostbusting, Purple-Rain-listening 1984 was a lot more fun that Orwell’s depiction.

So when the discussion of the next-shiny-object comes up, I take it with a grain of salt… like I did the Y2K bug.

But Michael Harvey’s opening session Oct. 9 at Fashion Digital NY made me open my eyes. Harvey, the COO of CorraTech, warned attendees that 3D printing will change everything we’re doing in the world of commerce.

I’m still waiting for my Jetson’s-esque flying car. But 3D printers are here. And when the patents on the first 3D printers expire in February, it’s going to get real!

You don’t believe it? This is what Nike did:

And if Nike did this, so could other manufacturers. And if the price of printers goes down, there’s the possibility consumers will just print their own clothing from the privacy of their own homes.

Or from their flying cars.

So here’s some questions you may want to ask about the impact of 3D printing on commerce as we know it:

Will storefronts become showrooms for consumer products you’ll print from home? Will you look at a dress, buy the material and some sort of computer code, and have it be ready to wear in minutes?

When a consumer buys online, will he or she have the option to have material and software shipped to their home, or have the merchant print it and ship it?

How will this affect the overseas textiles and garment industries? Will those who are hoping for more “Made in the USA” products be happy, or will items be made in “X,” but “Assembled in the USA?”

How will this affect global shipping? Will this create less-bulky shipments, and help reduce costs?

And what about domestic shipping? Will UPS, FedEx and USPS have fewer packages to ship to homes, or will freight carriers be shipping more product to stores because of a pent-up demands for fashion that can be printed at your local department store?

No matter how you look at it, the 3D printing revolution is on its way. So hopefully this post won’t keep you up at night. Or using a 3D printer to build a flying car.