Could you imagine downloading a door knob as easily as the new Angry Birds game? Or printing off a spare bicycle part you found online? It could become an everyday occurrence, according to one of the pioneers of 3D printing.
3D printing ‘app stores’, where people download files for objects that can then be printed, could become as popular as Apple’s iconic application store, according to Paul Gately, the European head of 3D Systems.
“People can now download spare parts as a [3D printing] file,” said Gately, speaking at Codex’s London Innovation Summit. “If you look at Apple’s app store and the growth of that and how its still growing – there’s no reason 3D printing can’t be like that.”
Gately predicted people would print off objects either at home on their own 3D printers or go to High Street shops to get their designs made. Rymens on the Strand already offers 3D printing to customers, while Asda has also dabbled in the technology.
Consumer printing and printers currently make up around 6% of 3D Systems business, but Gately said the market was rapidly growing.
South Carolina-based 3D Systems was founded by Chuck Hull, the man credited with inventing 3D printing.
The company, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange where it is valued at $4.5bn, works with the likes of GE Aviation and various Formula 1 teams.
3D Systems is also working on Google’s Project Ara, a customizable phone that is assembled from 3D printed parts.
In January 3D Systems named Black Eyed Peas star turned technology entrepreneur Will.i.am as its chief creative officer.
In July, the singer helped launch the Ekocycle Cube in collaboration with Coca Cola in July. The consumer printer produces products out of recycled plastic.