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3D Printing: The Next Big Thing in the Internet of Things

What would the future look like if the rapidly changing industries of the IoT and 3D technology were to bind together?
By Swamini Kulkarni
Dec 30, 2018

Since the beginning of time, mankind has been focused on how to reduce human labor and how to upgrade life activities by developing survival tools. No wonder that today, every industry across the globe craves for automation and machine learning. Rapid technological advancements have enabled us to use effective tools that can minimize human work, as well as error.

Today, the Internet of Things (IoT) has become the norm. In the past, we used to control machines manually. For instance, if we wanted to use a water heater, we used to plan and schedule the time to turn off the switch. However, thanks to the advent of the IoT, we can control the "on" and "off" switches remotely with the help of nothing but a smartphone or a voice-controlled device. However, the incorporation of 3D technology in the IoT has given rise to a whole new disruptive era, and the opportunities are endless.

According to Allied Market Research, the 3D technology market is expected to reach $175.1 billion by 2020, registering a CAGR of 21 percent. Factors such as low operating costs, the ability to sustain higher temperatures and improved strength while maintaining low weight have propelled the demand for new products based on 3D technology.

During the last few years, several engineers have adopted 3D printing in manufacturing IoT devices, even though the technology is still in its infancy. The benefits of 3D printing, such as flexibility in developing various models in different scales, materials and colors, are the major drivers for the market players to include 3D technology in the IoT.

3D-Printed Enclosures for IoT Devices
This will be regarded as the most obvious use of 3D printing in IoT projects: using additive manufacturing for developing enclosures. As IoT applications are electronic devices, they need proper enclosure. With the help of 3D printing, the manufacturing of enclosures that seamlessly fit a product is possible. Moreover, according to the design of the IoT device, specific features including snap fits could be inserted during the production process in a heartbeat, with no additional costs.

Custom-made 3D-Printed Products
As we all know, IoT devices collect data that can be used to build amazing products. When the IoT is combined with 3D printing, the opportunities are infinite and designing custom-made products at a low cost is just a basic step. For instance, manufacturers can create custom-made 3D-printed running shoes according to a customer's weight and running habits, and the way feet behave during running sessions. Or, while designing a customized tennis racket, a company can use data collected regarding how a player performs during test sessions to design a 3D-printed racket that perfectly matches his or her requirements.

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