3D Printing and the rise of products as service

Governments at many levels have proven themselves to be instrumental in developing both a national and local software-developing community

Competitions like The Big App and Apps for Democracy have spread knowledge of government data sets as well as provided money and recognition to software-development firms. Forward-looking CIOs and CTOs realized that software—both its development and the finished product—could spur innovation and economic activity. They also realized that government could help the software-development community.

In the next few articles in my emerging trends series, I’ll show how we are on the cusp of a similar era in the development of physical objects, whether simple objects or electric and/or networked devices.

Though it might sound futuristic, consider: this weekend, you could print your own circuit board. And here’s how you could print a wrench. If you to use or modify someone else’s circuits, just look here, and if you need 3D designs, here are a few. As a bonus, here’s a way to turn a $10 laser into a communications station and, related, the GSA repository on GitHub.

Keep this in mind—it’s the inchoate future coalescing around us: the scent on the breeze, and a taste of things to come. This future will include something beyond merely 3D Printing, but rather what I call “Products as a Service,” where the objects printed will be functional, made of different components, perhaps networked, and possibly open-sourced. More about this in future posts.

A little more than a year ago, Marc Andreesen wrote a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed, “Why Software Is Eating the World” In it, he demonstrated how software had permeated, if not subsumed so many industries—entertainment, finance, national security, photography, transportation, music—and offered some reasons why software was still ascendant, as well as some barriers the software industry faces.

There are five main reasons that software has eaten the world (and, as we’ll see that hardware may start to eat some of it back). They are:

1. Robust Ecosystem: inventors are no longer working in solitude or starting from scratch
2. Diminishing Cost: the monetary barriers to entry are coming down
3. High Return: inventors have a way to earn a lot of money and/or to make a steady living
4. Intrinsic Motivation: the incentive structure supersedes monetary compensation
5. Wide Application: The possibilities within the field of software development touch most interest areas

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Source: Government Executive

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