Gartner predicts some complications in 3D printing’s future

While we watch 3D printing begin to transform how we design and make just about everything in our future, we naturally think of all the great benefits that the technology will bring to us. But as with any disruptive technology, there will be some problems and controversies that arise along the way.

Gartner, Inc., the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company, has just revealed its “Top 10 predictions for IT Organizations and Users for 2014 and Beyond.” Two are cautionary forecasts concerning 3D printing. We list these two below, excerpted from their press release.

By 2018, 3D printing will result in the loss of at least $100 billion per year in intellectual property globally. Near Term Flag: At least one major western manufacturer will claim to have had intellectual property (IP) stolen for a mainstream product by thieves using 3D printers who will likely reside in those same western markets rather than in Asia by 2015.

We’ve written plenty on the topic of Intellectual Property, and while who knows the full extent of the theft, it will be no doubt a large number. While creative, constructive minds will dazzle us with new inventions, the less scrupulous are always lurking just around the corner looking for something else they can steal. Think fake Gucci handbags and Rolex watches on steroids.

By 2016, 3D printing of tissues and organs (bioprinting) will cause a global debate about regulating the technology or banning it for both human and nonhuman use. Near Term Flag: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration or comparable agency in a developed nation that is charged with evaluating all medical proposals will introduce guidelines that prohibit the bioprinting of life-saving 3D printed organs and tissues without its prior approval by end of 2015.

No doubt there will be technophobes who will demand limits on “man playing God” by creating body parts. But we don’t see these protestors as detrimental as the U.S. FDA’s sloth-like pace of approving new life-saving technologies. There is nothing like a bureaucratic government organization when it comes to to stifling innovation. And the FDA is one of the worst.

So there you go. We’re not worried though. All disruptive technologies come with, well, disruption, both good and bad. But we see considerably more good than any negative fallout from 3D printing.