Back in the late 1990s when the internet began creeping its way into homes and businesses, it was impossible to foretell the economic impact that it eventually would have on society as a whole. While estimates of its annual impact on the economy are all over the place, anywhere from $3 trillion to $6 trillion worldwide, one thing is for sure: it’s a game changer. In 2012, it was estimated that 4.7% of all US economic activity was the result of the internet. Three years later and this number has surely grown.
If you were to have asked me a few years ago if in our lifetime we’d see a technology as important to the world economy as the internet has been and continues to be, I likely would have said ‘no.’ Here we are in 2015 and I could probably name a couple technologies that may end up being as impactful as the internet has been. One such technology is 3D printing. Steve Sammartino, a digital entrepreneur, business adviser, and venture capitalist seems to agree with me on this one.
In a recent article written by Sarah Sedghi and Eleanor Hall, and published by ABC News in Australia, Sammartino made quite the prediction about the potential economic impact that 3D printing will have on our global economy. In fact, he believes that it will have a larger impact than even the internet has had, which certainly is saying something.
“It’s just a little bit like the internet. When it arrived we thought, ‘Oh, that may be interesting for media’, but as we’ve seen it’s transformed every type of business no matter what industry,” Sammartino explained to ABC News. “The internet is an important part of our business, and 3D printing, while we can’t see exactly how that might manifest itself, there’s no doubt that it’ll change everything we do from just simple operations and the spaces we work in and in unforeseeable ways it’ll impact, I think, most businesses.”
So, the question is: Could 3D printing have as significant an impact on the global economy in the coming decade as the internet has had? Considering that in the US alone, the manufacturing sector generates approximately $2 trillion annually, and that eventually a large portion of manufacturing in this country and abroad will rely at least partially on 3D printing, Sammartino may be on to something. The United States in 2012 accounted for 17.4% of all manufacturing. That means that the global manufacturing sector is worth around $11.5 trillion annually.
Considering that the manufacturing sector is only a portion of what the total 3D printing industry will consist of, it’s very possible that Sammartino’s prediction could in fact be correct. It will certainly take time before 3D printing becomes mainstream enough to even comes close to achieving the $3 to $6 trillion estimated economic impact that the Internet currently is responsible for. In fact, we would need to see at least a 100,000% rise in the adoption rate by manufacturers as current estimates for the total value of the 3D printing space sit at around $3 billion.
“Even the way our homes are furnished will change and the type of things that we print at home. It’ll even have an impact on our foods — we’ll be 3D printing food. Smart brands will be selling components,” explains Sammartino. “Just like the ink jet printers get sold, you might have a chocolate company selling you the ingredients that go into your 3D printing machine to print things exactly the way that you want.”
We are in the midst of exponential growth within the industry, and although I’m sure we will have obstacles come about along the way, the next decade is going to be an exciting one, not only for 3D printing, but for multiple technologies which are able to take advantage of the backbone of the internet, Big Data, and exponentially increasing computer power. How fast the market will expand is anyone’s guess — just like the internet’s growth was impossible to foretell in the ’90s.
What are your thoughts on Sammartino’s incredible predictions? Discuss in the Economic Impact of 3D Printing Forum thread on 3DPB.com.