While a few years back, the incorporation of the third dimension in manufacturing was mostly limited to design and planning, this is no longer the case. Most of the big brands are yet to make the much awaited transition to 3D for large scale production and they stress on standardization, process optimization as well as mass production. However, winds of change can be felt in the air. Three-dimensional printing technology has started oozing beyond is initial territory- planning, prototyping and tooling. In medical fields, progresses are being made already. 3D medical implants based on CAT scan or X- ray blueprints are a reality as it is. However, in the near future evolution of 3D printing and incorporation of third dimension manufacturing alter perception of products, believe industry experts, and it will be akin to what digital technology did to music industry.
Change in Concept of Production
Big companies attained their status and leadership position by following process excellence and minimal cost production techniques. They adapted to region and industry specific moves by adjusting capital and labor as per needs. However, when product parts can be created just by using raw materials and a device like 3D printer or laser cutter, the concept of production will change.
As of now, companies manufacture products with focus on driving down cost per unit and a minimum level of adherence to quality and functionality. However, 3D printed objects are driven more by ideas and innovation. It will help companies bring complex and intricately designed products in market in shorter time and cater to customer needs better.
Manufacturing Sector to Follow Footsteps of Music Industry
Much in the heels of the music industry, manufacturing may become more about sharing and using digital code. For example, if you need an accessory or part for your imported Italian car, a mechanic in the neighborhood can get the blueprint and print produce the part in his workshop. This will be much faster and convenient than getting the part imported from abroad. This may result in making warehouses and service points literally redundant gradually. It can also be good for instant and necessary customization.
There is no way one can deny that 3D printing is still more expensive than conventional manufacturing methods. Some large scale manufacturing processes will remain in place for long time as it is evident. However, the signs of change are quite obvious. Companies like Xerox, BMW and GE have realized the untapped potential of this emerging technology and they are busy changing their systems to implement the change. Once the potential of 3D printing appeals to more MNCs the revolution will take place. Along with spares and parts, multipart engineered components and short lifecycle products can be made using the technique. Of course, hurdles like materials, cost and IP concerns need to be overcome.
3-D Manufacturing, Like Music Industry, Can Benefit From Social Media Integration
The potential is there for the new manufacturing technology to be embraced by social media users. This may result in small communities getting involved in 3D and other emerging technologies, throwing big players out of gear. This is how the music industry has evolved and small bands and artists are finding foothold along with big and established names. Just think of what digital technology invasion did to a photography giant like Kodak.
Needless to say, large scale products like shipping containers and aircrafts will still be made using conventional manufacturing. However, small parts and products can be produced digitally with aid of advanced 3D printers. For a section of the industry, especially companies catering to value conscious users, such as Asian cell phone manufacturers this transition can be really tough. One has to consider the fact that once 3D printing based manufacturing goes mainstream, new markets will emerge as a part of the ecosystem. Nobody could imagine how YouTube would become a platform for wannabe music artists t promote their services and develop fan following even few years back. For now, this may seem a farfetched concept but once the potential is unlocked, the transition will not take much time.
Evans is always passionate about music and loves hip hop music. Currently he is associated with Tacoma String Quartet Seattles.