A Tailor-Made World

A 3-D printer can now produce a functioning bicycle:

It's not a perfect bike. It's not even a very good bike. But it is a totally amazing bike -- every bit of it literally printed out using plastic powder. This is an important proof of concept. It shows that this technology truly can produce large-scale functioning machines. (This one happens to be human-powered, but that won't always be the case.)

3-D printing will revolutionize how goods are made, not only the manufacturing technique but the timing and the personalization of production. Standardization is on its way out. The age of fully individualized products is coming.

We don't have to imagine clothes that conform to an individual's body rather than standardized sizes. Tailor-made clothes have always followed this paradigm. In the near future, all clothes will essentially be tailor-made for the individual wearer.

But that's just the beginning. Thanks to 3-D printing, before long virtually all products of every kind will be tailor-made.

Imagine a bicycle with wheels whose diameter don't match some existing standard -- they're just the perfect height for a bike that is just the perfect height for you. Imagine ordering a new chair for your living room and choosing not only the design, color, and fabric, but the size.

Well, it might be misleading to say that you will "order" the chair. Eventually you can expect to have a device that produces a pretty good chair right in your house.

Sooner or later we will drive tailor-made cars and live in tailor-made houses. We will look back at a time when items were mass produced in standard colors, shapes, and sizes and wonder how people could have ever lived like that.


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