In my post Reality Check for 3D Printing I wrote about a few critical blog posts and news items on 3D printing. The question on the table is: what is the killer application of 3D printing? It is an interesting question and I think there is none. Or at least no specific killer application. What is the killer application for an inkjet printer? What is the killer application for a computer? What is the killer application of the web?
In each of these cases, there is no killer application. When I first showed the web — using mosaic — to my mom and dad, they looked at me and had no clue what I was talking about. None. You could argue that the web is the killer application of the Internet. Or is it email? Or is it my Twitter mobile app? Or maybe Skype? Or all of the above?
Same applies for regular printers. Who can remember The Print Shop (version 23.1 — amazing!) from Broderbund? You could make endless banners with it or front pages for your own photo albums. All neatly printed on your dot matrix printer. Nobody is doing that anymore. The quality was low, to say the least, but still everybody made them. So why do you have a printer? I cannot think of a specific killer application for 2D printers. Though it is useful to have a printer.
When I think about the killer application of 3D printing, I think about personal fabrication. That in itself will mean different things for different people. It could be that an architect or designer want to print their professional designs. Or it can be the unique production of a cool dice for a Warhammer player. I cannot look into the future. But the prospect to design, customize and make your own things at home, design them exactly according to your own specifications while not going to a store, just sounds so appealing to me. What do you think?
Update: Fabricatis wrote down his thoughts on the killer application for 3D printing. Recommended reading!