The 3D Printer: How it Can Change the Future of Work

The first fully-efficient 3D printers were created in the 1970s, however they were huge, expensive and very limited in what they were able to produce. Since then, they’ve greatly evolved and are now available to the general public, though still costly (the minimum price for a poor quality at-home 3D printer starts at $200) . Since the  beginning of the year, there have been a lot of articles and stories out in the news about what people have been able to create thanks to the 3D printer: from art, to shoes and cars, even a prosthetic hand, the 3D printer is truly the revolutionizing innovation of the decade. Some even call it the “Third Industrial Revolution”.

So How does it work?

Here’s the simple explanation: “It all starts with making a virtual design of the object you want to create. This virtual design is made in a CAD (Computer Aided Design) file using a 3D modeling program or with the use of 3D scanner. [...] This scanner makes a digital copy of an object and puts it into a 3D modeling program. To prepare the digital file created in a 3D modeling program for printing, the software slices the final model into hundreds or thousands of horizontal layers. When this prepared file is uploaded in the 3D printer, the printer creates the object layer by layer. The 3D printer reads every slice and proceeds to create the object blending each layer together with no sign of the layering visible, resulting in a 3 dimensional object.” (http://3dprinting.com/what-is-3d-printing/#howitworks)

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So what does any of this have to do with coworking?

Owning a 3D printer is a competitive advantage for any coworking space. As we’ve seen before, all types of people work there, including engineers, designers, artists and marketers; all of whom could greatly benefit from a 3D printer. This invention will allow them to finally be able to bring to life the product of their imagination, without having to depend on an outside company to manufacture a product concept (which often takes time and high finances). It will enable “small workers” to compete with their most high-end counterparts, all the while maintaining affordability and autonomy.

The 3D Printer in Practice

For example, Mojo coworking has opened a “3D Innovation Lab” which gives its members access to two 3D printers, a 3D scanner and a Macintosh 3D computer design station along with a variety of software and design tutorials. The only requirement before using them is to attend a 30 min orientation class.It’s free to use; however they just have to pay a small fee tocover the replacement cost of plastic filament required during the additive manufacturing process, but of course they get a discount on it. Starting in December 2014, they will also start “The Mojo Tech Lab 3D Design & Print Camp”: a series of four hands-on classes that walks participants through all the stages of the 3D design and print process, available for Middle and High School students, as well as adult learners of any age; which goes to show the growing interest in this new technology.

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This technology is by no means meant for every individual or unique space, but the ability of the little guy to compete with the largest of producers is a perk that cannot be overlooked. What perhaps is even more important than simply “drawing people in” is how this technology will serve to keep people staying at coworking spaces. Having unique, advanced technology like this allows coworking in general to evolve – moving from simply a startup heaven to somewhere where people can fully integrate their work on a long term scale; it is for that reason emerging technologies like this are so important for the future of coworking.