We are at an inflection point in history
3D Printing is slowly, but surely, coming on as a massive technology and we are only at the precipice of it. Sure, there are 3D printers inside Staples, Office Depot and Microsoft stores, but what about our homes? Where are our automated coffee dispensing machines with 3D printed coffee cups? The main use of 3D printing is still within industrial and prototyping settings.
So how is 3D Printing supposedly going change the world?
In reality the technology is very straightforward. Depending on the material and use for the printed object, it is a simple process of additive manufacturing. The proposed idea is designed on a computer (or scanned) and then printed into physical form. In a way this marks the end of the Internet era as it shifts into the Maker era. In order to really take advantage of these advancements, one must be skilled in both.
To understand the prospective potential of 3D printing one must think big, I mean really big. Sure, it’s simple to press a button on a 3D printer and print out an object you downloaded off of Thingiverse, but the true value in 3D printing is about solving problems creatively.
How will 3D printers optimize your current system? What materials are the strongest and most efficient? How can a 3D printer be used to make moving parts and products with varying materials, such as shoes?
These are the kinds of questions that must be solved to drive further growth.
Having worked with and studied 3D printing for over 5 years in almost all facets, there are and always will be challenges to revolutionizing industrial technology, but that is the beauty of it.
In business, mass production will become outdated. 3D printing means that goods will be Customized-On-Demand. On the supplier end, this saves time, inventory and transportation costs. On the customer end, it means higher quality, personalization and faster lead times. By decentralizing the need for having a factory, industrial systems such as car assembly plants can have one part made in one area of the country and another where the materials are easier to track down. Then it is assembled when it is ordered. The advantage of made to order can have drastic positive effects on the manufactured goods economy. Gone are the days when cities would be located next to rivers and lakes to be within proximity of resources – now anyone, can make anything and sell it anywhere!
The focus will be on quality, rather than producing the maximum amount of inventory for the cheapest price. Quality will continue to be king.
The Mass Customization Economy
In this respect, factors that have made China the workshop of the world will lose much of their force. For China to effectively compete, they have to implement a fundamental shift in how they produce goods, most likely to mass customization. People, organizations and technology will need to be emphasized. This rings true for all manufacturing countries around the world, which is a great thing for the global economy. Since we will all have access to the same technology, ideas & action will become the true driver of growth.
Innovation, not economy of scale, will be the factor of success for how well a country competes in the global marketplace. This is truly an exciting time to be an entrepreneur as 3D printers give the power of manufacturing to the people.
No longer will we have housing problems for those living in third world countries. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs, basic safety and shelter is a core need we as humans seek. By providing this basic human need – safety – 3D printing will enable struggling countries and people to focus on important things such as self-actualization and innovation, in turn benefitting the whole world. Small changes like this can have a huge impact on the world.
Take this concept and scale it even further through imagination – like a 3D printed bridge from island to island in the Caribbean or a 3D printed space station on Mars made completely without any humans present.
In order to make huge changes in the world one must think big; start small and take it one step at a time.