People ask me all the time, "What sort of trends do you see coming on the horizon?"


It's a tough question to answer, and one that I usually turn to industry experts for their opinions. Three-dimensional (3D) printing, however, has recently caught my eye as a trend to watch.

The 3D printer is a developing technology that takes design information from a computer and instead of printing a two-dimensional drawing, constructs a three-dimensional object. The materials and size of the objects have a broad range, and science continues to advance the types of materials and designs that can be created. Users of the technology and experimenters have created clay art, food designs, prototypes for a bevy of items, and a working gun.

In these early stages, I can see why you are currently chuckling at the thought of a 3D printer interfering with the HVAC supply chain. In fact, this subject may even be better suited for the manufacturing side of the industry. Before you dismiss this idea though, think about the day when these printers become a commonplace item in businesses and someday in homes. If a contractor owns his own 3D printer and is printing most of his add-on parts and accessories, how will that change your business? Or, perhaps you want to get ahead of the curve. What if you were able to lower some of your in-store stock items and print them on demand instead?

I know that technology changes and that predictions aren't always right, but I leave you with this final thought as you contemplate the feasibility of 3D printers changing the HVAC supply chain. The way technology is going, it looks as though car keys will be obsolete in five years. If a staple, such as car keys is susceptible to technological advance, what isn't?