5 Ways 3D Printing Could Revolutionize Online Shopping

A man sits in his office. Deciding he would like something warm to drink, this austere personage rises, strides to a wall alcove and states to the empty air, “Tea, hot.” He is rewarded by a sparkle of energy in the air and a cup of warm tea materializes into the air. This is just a scene from a common science fiction genre, but a little closer to our time and space this is looking more like a soon-to-be-reality, albeit without the sparkle of energy.

This is all due to a revolutionary technique known as 3D Printing – a technique that may change the future of online shopping. 3D printing is already being used to create some pretty cool items, as shown in this article.

What if online orders could be delivered instantly?
Currently, online shopping is a matter of browse, point, click, order, then wait 3 to 10 days for your shipment. But the question we must ask is: what would happen if it only took a few hours, or even just a few minutes? How would this change our lives?

1. Spare or Replacement Parts
Due to the complex options that 3D Printing offers, multi-material constructions are very possible. Say someone needs a fuse for a toaster, but the hardware store doesn’t carry that particular item. The company that produced the toaster could have parts listed on their online store, so the consumer can simply purchase, download and print out the 3D design.. Next stop: how about printing a whole toaster…

2. Toys and Appliances
Say you have a child. That child’s birthday is today, the party is only a few hours a way, and you’ve just been too busy to stop and pick up that action figure they really wanted. Or perhaps the blender is broken and you need a new one. 3D Printing allows construction of individual parts for a more intricate item in a relatively short time, so consumers would have plenty of time to start their child’s favorite toy to printing while they finish decorating for the party.

3. Pharmaceuticals and Medical Technology
Another use that is currently in the experimentation phase is the use of 3D Printing for complex chemical compounds like what would be seen in certain prescription medicines. An impressive use of this technology for medical purposes is already being employed at limited locations in the world. One example is a Netherlands medical team that managed to create an entire lower jaw as an implant for an elderly patient.

4. Online Grocery shopping
As 3D Printing becomes more prolific in society, there is likely to be an increase in how businesses use 3D printing to deliver products to consumers, especially as speed and intricacy improve. If the pharmaceutical experiments prove successful, then all manner of complex consumables are bound to follow, as large retailers and grocery chains capitalize on this innovative technology. Certain stores currently allow online grocery shopping of their stores, this development would mean consumers could do the entire shopping trip right from the comfort of their homes. <—sentence seems unclear to me

5. A Takeout Delivery System
The advantages don’t just limit themselves to large retail and grocery chains: many restaurants allow online ordering as well. With 3D Printing, it may be possible to send a pizza via your computer. In this manner, quick service food companies could protect their various secret recipes while offering consumers even more convenience.

3D Printing Is Coming…
Even though some things are still far beyond the current level of 3D Printing, future developments coupled with business needs and consumer demands will doubtless lead this technology right into the homes of people the world over.

Gabriel Adams is a tech blogger and self-professed internet geek.