3D Printing: The New Industrial Revolution
Since the invention of the steam engine, humanity has ridden the waves of the Industrial Revolution. The second wave began with the gas-powered engine and brought us all the way to outer space. Now, with 3D printing, we enter the third era of the Industrial Revolution.
What is 3D printing?
Traditional manufacturing involves a wide range of processes that include casting, tooling, forging, and molding. Typically, this is a process of subtraction – starting with a block of some material and shaping it by eliminating materials through grinding or machining.
3D printing is an additive manufacturing process. It builds a product, layer by layer, as the printer’s nozzle distributes the material – whether that material is plastic, metal, pizza dough, or biological tissue.
A 3D printer is guided by instruction software, and is capable of creating some objects whole and complete. This process builds from the ground up, and appears to “grow” an object. Other items must be made in parts that require further assembly.
How will 3D printing affect the future of manufacturing?
3D printing is not a new process. The first working 3D printer was developed in 1984, and large corporations have made use of the technology for years to create product prototypes. What is new is the tremendous growth of the 3D printing industry.
Today, 3D printing can be involved in every stage of production, from the drawing board all the way to the consumer’s home. Using 3D printing, companies can shorten the amount of time spent on pre-production testing and speed a product’s entry into the marketplace.
Because of its additive process, 3D printing eliminates the need for machining and engineering – and all the costly equipment that accompanies it. In essence, 3D printing has the potential to eliminate traditional factories completely.
Furthermore, the adaptable nature of 3D printing allows it to create nearly infinite customized variations of a product at no additional cost to the producer. In a marketplace that continually demands higher levels of personalization, this is truly a game changer.
How will 3D printing change the marketplace?
With infinite opportunities to create and customize, 3D printing makes the consumer an active participant in production. Whether a buyer is purchasing an artisan’s crafts or choosing a customized consumer product, the buying process is no longer a one-way interaction.
3D printing is the driving force behind a new type of global market – one where open design and customization are the new standards. And it brings the possibility of manufacture to a whole new sector, from small business and do-it-yourselfers to hospitals and schools.
The time to prepare for the future of manufacture is now. If your business isn’t ready, your competitors will be.