How 3D Printing Will Change the Future of Manufacturing
Technology has developed to the point where we are rethinking the future of manufacturing. The idea of a do-it-yourself manufacturer is becoming more common and with the implementation of 3D printers, you don’t need the capital involved in the creation of things anymore. As this technology is becoming more accessible, more affordable and more capable, it is beginning to redefine the way we think about manufacturing and the competitive advantage it will have on the future of business.
It seems as though the buzz on 3D printing has recently surfaced; however, many people don’t realize that the technology has been around for decades, better known as additive manufacturing (building an object layer by layer). In the mid 1980’s, pioneers Charles Hull (founder of 3D systems) and Scott Crump (founder of Stratasys) developed a range of technologies now known as 3D printing. Now, a $2.2 billion dollar industry, additive manufacturing’s fastest-growing application is in the printing or layering of specialized parts and final products.
Today you can make parts, appliances and tools in a wide variety of materials right from your home or workplace. At the same time, 3D printing is being used in a number of different industries including aerospace and defense, automotive and healthcare, and the technology is now becoming “good enough” to serve markets that previously held no manufacturing capabilities such as small businesses, schools, and DIYers.
3D printing is evolving rapidly and the flexibility to build a wide range of products, coupled with the fact it can be done near the point of consumption, implies significant change to supply chains and business models. Experts agree that additive manufacturing will transform business and entire industries by the efficient use of resources and rapid manufacturing. Initially, it will focus on new rather than established markets and over time, opportunities to complement existing manufacturing will emerge.
In Makers: The New Industrial Revolution, Chris Anderson, author and editor in chief of Wired, writes: “The idea of a ‘factory’ is, in a word, changing. Just as the Web democratized innovation in bits, a new class of ‘rapid prototyping’ technologies, from 3D printers to laser cutters, is democratizing innovations in atoms. You think the last two decades were amazing? Just wait.”