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Saturday, 22 March 2014

Economic Development: 3D printed jobs

A 3D printer.
Noel Leeming is moving in on the 3D printer bussiness. They are advertising 3D printers for less than the price of a high-spec PC, at $2,000. While that's a price out of reach of many people, it does show how the technology is now moving into the mainstream. I'm sure over time the cost will come down and 3D printers will become affordable.

So where's the jobs in 3D printing? A recent article on Business News Daily has some pointers. Here's the top three roles I can see being in demand in New Zealand:

  • Designers: 3D printing will create more demand for people able to visualise and put together products. As 3D printing is not limited by production runs, this will mean numerous new designs can be tested.
  • 3D CAD modelers: CAD (Computer Aided Design) is a specific skill, translating what the designer wants into a 3D version of the product.
  • Research and development: there's still plenty of more applications for 3D printing we've not yet even thought of. R&D on the subject is a huge area of growth, largely thanks to what we can already see coming out of 3D printers.
In addition, there are 3D print-houses, where one company owns the printers themselves but others provide the designs. I've been using one, known as Shapeways, for model train parts for the past year or so. You can even create your own store and earn commission as people order your products. The only problem is it's based in the Netherlands. While I've got nothing against the Dutch (they did, after all, put our country on the map) it is a pain to have to wait weeks for your creations to arrive, especially if you're just after a test print. There's a big market opportunity there - while Wellington's Ponoko has 3D printers available, they don't have the same sort of "shop" capability Shapeways have.