Earlier this year the Harvard Business Review reported that 30% of the world’s top 300 largest global brands were using or evaluating 3D printing. In the grand scheme of things, this is a tiny number of businesses – but with technology specialists suggesting that 3D printing could be bigger than the internet it seem inevitable that one day practically every business, large or small will take advantage of 3D printing.
Today, unless your job role explicitly involves working with 3D printing you’re unlikely to come into contact with them in the workplace – and considering that at Adzuna we’re currently only listing 69 permanent roles, that won’t be too many of us. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this number of 3D printing related jobs as we think it could start to rocket in 2016 and beyond, but given enough time, the increase in 3D printing jobs won’t just affect the people directly hired to fill those roles – every one of us could find the way we work changes as a result of the technology becoming much more accessible.
What will the mass adoption of 3D printing mean for the way we work? These are six possibilities.
- We Just Don’t Know
Let’s get this out of the way now – this list is incredibly inadequate. That’s because despite all the wonderfully clever people out there, we still can’t comprehend some of the ways that 3D printing is going to change things. Creative entrepreneurs, scientists and inventors are going to develop new techniques and products that redefine the possibilities of 3D printing. What could be more exciting than that?
Yes, there will be unfortunate cases where (as with any new technology) 3D printing make certain job roles obsolete, but more optimistically many people will choose to leave voluntarily because of the new opportunities available.
Etsy already has a number of creative people offering unique 3D printed items, but there is so much potential for products that aren’t just cool but are actually incredibly useful. 3D printing will mean that no market is too small, allowing inventors to create incredibly niche products, making life easier and more enjoyable for all. And of course, the rise of 3D printing will give birth to a whole new host of self-employed consultants.
3D printing will allow designers to drastically improve the speed at which prototypes can be produced – but will this change of pace impact on other departments? Will it force businesses looking to capitalise on this speed to come up with new processes and innovate in other departments in order to keep up?
3D printing expert TJ McCue sums it up much more eloquently: “One inventor I know says that with traditional CAD tools, he would spend 15-16 hours to build a new model, but with web-based tools he has cut that down to only 15-20 minutes. Once you begin to assume that your iterations will be so quick, many aspects of how you think about developing and delivering products change.”
- Creativity Will Be Even More Valued
Another consequence of this faster method of production will be that creativity will become even more valuable. With the reduce time and cost investment associated with creating new products or new tools to facilitate work, those who really thrive when it comes to thinking outside the box will have less barriers getting in the way of bringing their ideas into the real world, if only for a test-drive.
- Time and space will be less of an issue
Many businesses are at the mercy of machines – if something goes wrong, profit margins are quickly squeezed. As a result organised businesses store essential spares or have relationships with suppliers that won’t leave them waiting weeks for delivery. Unorganised businesses meanwhile will scramble to source crucial replacements and end up paying a premium for speedy delivery. In the future what’s stopping businesses downloading a file from the manufacturer and printing the cog, sprocket, chain or whatever else needs to be replaced.
- New Pranks
Finally, as someone who is too young to have experienced the joy of getting drunk at the office Christmas party and then using the photocopier for inappropriate purposes, I can look forward to the new opportunities for pranks that 3D printing will create. As ubiquitous as photocopiers may have been in the past, I’ve never worked in an office with one – I don’t imagine I will get through the course of my working life without access to a 3D printer in work however. While I’m sure companies will be coming up with strict guidelines on their use to prevent too many HR headaches, there’s no doubt there is still fun to be had.
Stephen Pritchard works at Adzuna, Europe’s fastest growing search engine.[Images: Chess / F1 Car/ Cogs]