screw it, I'll just post the article for the lazy:
This article is sponsored by SAP.
As of right now, 3D printing remains a bit of a novelty. Sure, you can design your own shoes, pretend you're on "Star Trek," or dream up a three-wheel hybrid car, but 3D printing's practical implications for business have yet to capture the public imagination.
When will 3D printing start fundamentally changing the business landscape—or are we there already? We talked to Jochen Rode, who heads the digital manufacturing program of SAP’s research department in Dresden, Germany, about which industries this new technology affects most, as well as how long it will be before doctors start printing out our organs.
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Interview conducted by Business Insider's Patricia Chui. This conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
BUSINESS INSIDER: Could you give us an overview of what 3D technology is and does?
JOCHEN RODE: The way I usually explain it is that [the] product is built up layer by layer. By adding different materials—it might be plastic or it might be something else, it might be metal—[and] adding layer by layer on top, you can actually grow real, 3D products ... Anything that's imaginable can be 3D-printed, often a lot of things that you cannot manufacture any other way. It's limitless what you can do.
The sweet spot for 3D printing is one-off prototypes or even small-series [production]. You can have a custom-made implant—for instance, if you want to have a new tooth. You have a toothache, and you get an inlay for your tooth. No other human being on Earth will have the tooth that you have. It can be done very well with 3D printing technology. It's done already today.
BI: Are you starting to see the industry grow beyond hobbyists and into the business world? Is that happening now, or is it something that's going to happen in the future?