What if I told you that you could print a pancake?

The other day I was thinking about printers. I don’t often think about printers, but I did that day because I needed to print a document (PDF) that someone sent me. I didn’t even think about what I was doing, just opened the PDF on my iPhone and printed it. One of the reasons I switched to Canon printers is just that. The ability to print from anything without requiring connections.

From there, I wandered off to the art of the possible with printers. We have in our garage, an amazing printer that can take any picture (within reason of course) and print it like a pancake. We have a printer that can take any scan, and print it as a 3d object. Plus, there are also printers that can print electrical circuits, right on the paper. All of these capabilities are recent in affectation, but all are beyond amazing.

I’ve talked about my Flashforge Dreamer before, the ability to pull a 3d scan into my program and print what I scanned is amazing. I also love capacity to go out and download 3d models from the web and be able to print those incredibly quickly. I admit you have to be a bit of a geek to want to print pancakes, but objects are something that I think more and more people will be printing. Just being able to print a quick napkin holder to give to your guests to take home after a party is cool! Plus it only takes 3 hours to print four napkin holders, and you don’t have to watch it just set it to print and walk away.

The reality of the concept print is going to change in the next couple of years. In part because the art of the possible is now huge, and in part, because of the move to digital means at times we need copies. For example, interesting printers are using Zync paper that allows you to print images from your phone, tablet or computer. Why print an image? Well, the Zync paper is also a sticker, so it becomes an artistic way to decorate with pictures. Plus we all have walls, at some point, you have to cover them with something!

But what we print is what will change. First off, I take 1000’s of digital pictures in a year, and I print less than 50. Figure I add 12,000 to 15,000 new images a year, and I print about 50. That 50 picture includes digital art my son’s or daughter produce that I print to save. But of the 50 prints (and it is more likely a lot less than 50) I share most of them.

The number of prints is decreasing. The things we print however are changing. If we include 3d prints in a year, I am back up to roughly 100 prints or more. If we add pancakes, then I am up to 200 prints per year. Funny, there was a time when we burned out printers in our house. As in, so many pages were printed that the printer died. It would no longer function as a printer. Now, for the most part, I don’t print.

Why is that interesting? In part, because the printers I have now are better than the ones I used in the past. As I said, printing is changing. At times for work, I printed PDF files so I could review them. Now I put them on my iPad to read or my Surface Book. Once upon a time, I published pictures and decorated the walls of our house (I don’t do that either, anymore).

I started this saying printing is changing. The reality of printing now, is it is changing. There was a time when inkjet printers were the rage. Companies that sell printers were dancing; they make more money on an Ink Jet printer in profit than they do on a laser printer. Those ink cartridges, even from the discount places, are a ripoff!

That got me thinking, what do you need a printer for? First off there are jobs that require the ability to print quality documents and take them places. There are jobs (like mine) that being able to plot something large makes a difference. There is something about a project room filled with the printout of a project file that makes me happy! But the reality of printing now is different. Where once we printed every day, now we print less often (another reason why inkjet printers are a ripoff, the ink dries causing the printer to die).

3d printing and scanning, won’t be prevalent in every home. But I suspect going forward other than maybe photo printers in your house; you may not have any printers. Of course, I could be wrong, it is a prediction, not a guarantee.

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Futurist