A New Industrial Revolution?

Printing_with_a_3D_printer_at_Makers_Party_Bangalore_2013_113D printing is changing the manufacturing industry. In the debate of “make” or “buy”, 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, has made it increasingly possible to become the supply chain for your own product. While the actual technology of 3D printing has been around for decades, the price point has finally come down to an area that make the technology available to the regular consumer. This type of technology can be used for a multitude of different things such as lighter airplane parts, aerodynamic car bodies and custom prosthetic devices. Just think about a situation where your car needs a new part to function but the car dealership cannot get it in for at least another 2 weeks. 3D printing capabilities will allow the dealership to print the part up for you, the waiting time significantly diminished which is essentially a more efficient market. The additive manufacturing is a $2.2 billion industry today and sales could exceed $6 billion by 2017, according to Wohlers Associates, a research firm that specializes in the field. America Makes (the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute)  was founded in 2012 and has a huge backing from the National Science Foundation, NASA and the Departments of Defense, Energy and Commerce.  Michael Hripko, deputy director of workforce and educational outreach at America Makes has spoken about some of the most important benefits of this type of production. The first is efficiency; 3D printing allows for fewer steps, less assembly and overall less energy than typical manufacturing. There is also the idea of small-lot production, which goes against the theory of economies of scale but allows for lower inventory costs and eliminates bulk producing minimums. The technology also allows for rapid and agile manufacturing which creates more efficiency. While this type of technology is not out to replace traditional manufacturing it is a way to complement and create new niches within the industry.

Despite all this there is always the question of how reliable this new technology is? It will surely need to be tried and tested to prove that it can be just as good as traditional manufacturing. What do you think – will 3D printing revolutionize the manufacturing industry? Are there too many cons and not enough pros? Could this just be a phase and will we find that traditional manufacturing is actual more efficient in the long run?

2 thoughts on “A New Industrial Revolution?

  1. 3-D printing could certainly revolutionize manufacturing for niche products (as you mention above). For instance, NASA has a 3-D printer aboard the International Space Station that is able to create usable parts for maintenance. However, a significant limit of additive manufacturing is that only certain materials can be used to build products in the 3-D printer, most of which are plastic-based. I believe that products forged from metals are produced more efficiently and faster via an assembly-line. Additionally, 3-D printers are not able to create thousands of the same product in an hour that many manufacturing plants are capable of doing. Nonetheless, additive manufacturing seems eerily similar to the model we talked about in class where an entrant can drive out a competitor with drastic innovation. 3-D printing has the ability to emerge and gain a sizable share in niche-product markets by offering quick production of a specialized good.

  2. For the investor, as far as 3D printing is concerned, keep an eye out for HPQ (Hewlett-Packard Co.). From and IO point of view, the coming split in 2015 should do well for the company’s (companies’) bottom line. In October, they just released the prototype for one of the best 3D printers on the market, differentiating itself from its competitors with enhanced technologies for greater efficiency, supportive apps, and greater productive capacity all under a brand name that everyone recognizes. Should innovative progress continue, HP will do well for itself in the 3D printing market space.

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