3D printing and GIS

It is difficult to remember that last year the 3D printing industry hadn’t inundated the public consciousness because 3D printing and 3D visualizations were still an innovative, but not yet wide-spread technology. What a difference a year can make and how quickly a technology can go from innovation to necessity. Forbes magazine recently advised its audience on, “How to Invest in the 3d Printing Industry”, CNBC gave a basic overview of “What Investors Need to Know to About 3D Printing“, while the Motley Fool said that despite the fact that, “3-D Printing Stocks Got Hammered” their performance in the past year has been “simply astounding”. There are an increasing number of business sites devoted to the 3D printing industry including 3dprinting Industry.com  and 3ders.org who predicts that the 3D printing market will be worth more than 8 billion by 2020.

The impact of 3d printing can be felt in the Pandora’s box of markets, industries, small businesses, and hobbies it touches, often bringing natural connection to the geospatial along with it. Popular magazines such as Makezine regularly carry news on the 3d printing market such as the recent November 27 article, “Stratasys sues Afinia: Ramifications for the Desktop 3D Printing Industry”.  A blog for Lee 3D, 3D Printer Log, the London based colour 3D print service to the “the creative community with a focus on architecture highlights work with color 3D printing of GIS Data. For GIS Day 2013, Professor Moskal’s Remote Sensing and Geospatial Analysis Lab (RSGAL)at the University of Washington, School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS) used terrestrial LiDAR to produce a three-dimensional visualization of the husky statue guarding the main entrance to Husky Stadium.

In a 3ders.org article, “Own a Slice of Norway Created on a 3d Printer”, the Terrafab team is quoted  “Secondly, we wanted to make surprising and useful things that clearly communicate what data like this can be used for in the eager hands of parties other than the traditional GIS-Industry”. 3D printing goes hand in hand with geospatial data, so it will be interesting to watch the impact that the market for 3D printing has on the traditional GIS Industry and a growing demand for GIS maps and data.  Anyone want to guess how many 3D printing companies will be sponsors at next year’s ESRI User’s Conference 2014?

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