Can 3D Printing Make Travelling easier?

The wave of 3D Printing technology that allows you to additively create a part or functional prototype efficiently touches upon traveling. Everyone likes to make their travel experiences unique. And with 3D Printing technology, you get the freedom to customize your travel essentials like no other. You can 3D print tiny things that account for huge differences on your travel using your 3D printer. Even if you do not have a 3D printer, you can always take the help of an online 3D printing service provider. There are also online 3D printing repositories from which you can download 3D design files for free. 

3D Printer

Just as 3D Printing is changing other fields; it's also shaping how we travel. Our list of essentials while on travel have upgraded from what they used to be before. There is not much that we need nowadays, as we used to do. Still, it depends on the purpose of travel, the number of days, and the geographical conditions to which we are traveling. Indirectly, the way in which 3D printing affects your travel also depends on the number of facilities that you are using and how they are shaped by 3D printing!

Influence of affordable 3D printers in designing a travel experience

In the year 2014, a desktop 3D printer was made available for $200. This desktop 3D printer could manufacture all the parts and functional prototypes having a small build volume. The Internet is full of examples of parts and functional prototypes that could be very useful while on travel. The best part about 3D printing is, even if you do not know how to create a 3D design file, you can download it from repositories for free.

So say, you have a 3D printer at your place, but not the 3D design file of a charging station you wish to print for your travel. All you can do is go on Thingiverse, MyMiniFactory, or Cults. Download the 3D design file of a Smartphone charging station. Slice it and convert it into G-codes and then feed it to your 3D printer and print it. All this process will cost you is the raw material. 

Imagine a world wherein 3D printers are as casual as having a Smartphone. You drive to the hotel after landing at the airport of the state you wish to travel to without any luggage. The point being, the hotel at which you are staying has a 3D printer that offers 3D printing the clothing you wish to wear, free with a three-day stay at that hotel! 

The ability of 3D printing technology to produce personalized physical objects quickly and at a low cost is something that makes it immensely popular. You may have an airline service provider that customizes food for every traveler on its airplane. You'd have to wait till 3D printers are completely efficient in producing edible food, but that's the aim of this technology in the near future. 

Challenges that 3D Printing technology faces in designing a travel experience

  • 3D Printing technology is great at customizing but not efficient in standardizing. So, say you wish to manufacture 1000 same parts or functional prototypes used in the travel industry in the name of your brand. Not that you cannot do it, but you would have to have an expensive machine. Or the budget of your project would have to be at a higher end. 
  • The experts at Deloitte put in front how manufacturers and end-users have difficulty claiming with certainty that the parts or functional prototypes they produce are of a certain consistent quality, strength, and reliability or not. The manufacturers and end-users are still experimenting and therefore cannot guarantee the certainty of quality produced using additive manufacturing technology. 
  • The other point to be noted is the 3D printing technology's impact on the environment. Every part of the 3D printing process consumes a lot of electrical energy. Starting from the 3D design to the post-processing of parts or functional prototypes. A study done at the University of Loughborough states how 3D printers consume anywhere in the range of 50 to 100 times more electrical energy than injection molding in making a part or functional prototype of the same weight. 
  • According to Stratasys Direct, the equipment cost was the topmost concern for professional 3D printer users. It is easy to print with plastic, but the amount of metal that goes into mass production into an industrial 3D printer is huge. And so the cost of buying raw material is often into millions of dollars. The travel industry as a whole does not have such a huge resource to fund these costs. Also, the companies functioning in the travel industry are most locally integrated with other locales to form a chain. This presents a huge difficulty.

The Conclusion

If Wohlers Associates is to be believed, the global 3D printing market is quadrupling in four years. As you can deduce from the first part of the article, the core idea of 3D printing technology has the potential to change and better the current travel experience. From the machines needed to make the essentials to the ideas of making a product related to the travel industry, 3D Printing technology has it all and even more to offer. It can offer these solutions at a cheaper price than what they are available right now. 

But can it do this at a scale that's being done by the traditional manufacturing technologies? Can it do this by not raising the global temperature by a degree or two? Can mass production of parts and functional prototypes be cheaper and not expensive? Will the industrial 3D printers become cheaper anytime soon? Will they be available for the small manufacturers or be limited to the big elite manufacturers? How will the travel industry treat 3D Printing technology for the problems it faces currently? And what exact innovations will make travel easier than what it is at present? Is the list of questions that we'd have to wait a little more to get its answer!

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