In 2016, we saw an uptake in 3D printing across businesses in a range of industries from engineering to education. As we move into 2017, we’ll see the user base continue to grow, placing new demands on the technology, particularly with regards to the capture of 3D data. As a result, I expect to see an increase in the use of free 3D Design software to help people start creating basic forms and shapes, as well as the introduction of more intuitive, easy to use software packages which will aid the data capture for both beginners and seasoned users.
In the coming year, we’ll also see manufacturers look at how to combine materials to produce diverse parts that have a range of capabilities. A focus on customisable manufacturing and even modular design could lead to printers producing parts capable of more than what’s currently possible. We may even see legislation around what people can produce; ensuring 3D models are coded with digital rights management (DRM) functions to prevent misuse of files.
In 2017, the biggest rise in 3D printing will be in education, as schools and universities prepare the minds of the future on how to use such technology. Some educational establishments have already started on the journey, enabling students to use 3D printing as part of architecture and design coursework, for example. This early introduction to the technology will ensure the students are familiar with the skills and products required for their eventual roles in industry.