By David Dorf on Mar 11, 2013
Often consumers want instant gratification, which is why my previous post discussed the importance of fast shipping for online retailers. Getting to affordable same-day or next-day delivery will be an important milestone for the retail industry, and we're already making progress in that direction with "shipping clubs" and local delivery services. But what if there was a way to skip the delivery process altogether, much like what we've done with digital content. I don't order music CDs or DVDs from websites anymore; I simply download the content.
3D printing has the potential to change the way we manufacture and deliver physical products. The use of the word "printer" implies ink and paper, but 3D printers use drops of different materials to create objects one layer at a time. Traditional manufacturing converts a block of material into a product by carving the shape. 3D printing, however, is additive. Instead of removing excess material in a particular shape, it builds the product by spitting out material in layers.