2012 Consumer Printer Trends
July 16, 2012
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Often times, we forget that printers can be used for more than just work reports and school papers. They can actually be used to print great works of art, share photos and even keep you connected to others. Every year, more inventive printer uses are introduce.

Here are two printer trends that could very well be the next big thing.

3D printing

2012 has really been the year of 3D printing. The technology behind it been around for years, but only recently has it become a viable consumer option for at-home users.

3D printing is a phrase "used to describe the process of creating three-dimensional objects from a digital file using a materials printer, in a manner similar to printing images on paper." The term has been increasingly used to describe some types of rapid prototyping technology and all types of additive manufacturing processes.

The costs of 3D printers have gone down drastically, and its uses have grown from industrial design and manufacturing to bio-engineering and printing organs to creating personalized jewelry and toys.

Metrix ceramic skulls
Ceramic skulls made at Metrix Create:Space using a 3D printer.
For consumers and manufacturers, 3D printers will change the business model drastically. Say you saw an ad for a fashionable bracelet but have no way of figuring out where to get it - or that the price is too high. With a consumer 3D printer, you could find an opensource file for a similar bracelet and have it printed in mere hours!

For the medical world, 3D printers not only provide a new source of customizable organs and limbs for patients, but also help pave the way for invasive surgery. Say a doctor needed to perform a tricky internal operation where one wrong incision could cost a life. With 3D modeling and printing, the doctor can create an exact model and replica to practice on before the surgery.

There have been so many inventive creations from 3D printers already � clothes, jewelry, cars, jaws, crazy food designs - once it hits mainstream consumerism, everything could be different.

Thermal printers for physical mini-newsfeeds

Wired Magazine highlighted a potential trend this year: thermal printers.

Thermal printers are small printers that produce a printed image by heating coated thermal paper. When the paper passes the print head, the coating turns black thus producing an image. The most common use for thermal printers is printing receipts: you can find them at the grocery store, department store, etc.

But what if you took that printer and hooked it up to your social network?

This up-and-coming idea revolves around having a social inbox, where people can send you tidbits and things that print out at your house. Take that one step further to selectively choosing parts of your social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc.) and you potentially have a personalized mini newspaper print out.

The Little Printer is a great example of the social network thermal printer. Once you have it set up, it "scours the Web on your behalf, assembling the content your care about into designed deliveries a couple of times a day." It is completely controlled by your phone and customizable to your preferences.

The Little Printer
Photo courtesy Berg Cloud.
It's a new way to get personal with the Internet and your social circle, but in a physical way. Would you buy it?

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