Is 3D Printing The Subsequent Industrial Revolution?
Filemon Schoffer is the top of group at 3dhubs.
It was in 1909 when Henry Ford, grasp of effectivity and standardization, famously stated that a “buyer can have a automotive painted any shade…as long as it’s black.” Whereas the First Industrial Revolution launched machines to exchange hand labor, Ford helped usher in what was finally the precept of mass manufacturing; utilizing these machines to supply giant portions of standardized merchandise — an period that got here to be referred to as the Second Industrial Revolution.
At the moment, multiple hundred years since Ford made his business-defining assertion, 3D printing is making its method ahead within the mainstream and is permitting anybody to create custom-made merchandise on demand at reasonably priced costs. Not do merchandise have to be the identical; we will now tailor merchandise to satisfy our particular person wants at little or no additional value.
Are immediately’s digital manufacturing capabilities making standardization out of date? Might we probably be on the verge of changing mass manufacturing altogether? Are we sitting on the sting of the Third Industrial Revolution?
How we presently make issues
To raised perceive how 3D printing might disrupt mass manufacturing as we all know it, it’s useful to take a look at the elemental variations between typical manufacturing applied sciences.
At its core, mass manufacturing is about scale — the place the price of manufacturing per unit decreases as manufacturing amount will increase. The precept behind this mechanism is that an funding is made towards manufacturing amenities that may sometimes produce multiples of the identical factor effectively.
Producing (and finally promoting) loads of these “issues” decreases the relative value of the preliminary funding, which, in flip, permits the product to be bought at a lower cost level to additional improve demand. As demand continues to develop for a specific product, the prices of manufacturing can proceed to go down, whereas relative revenue margins per unit improve — an idea known as economies of scale.
So whereas financial progress could be achieved when economies of scale are realized, this brings us to a elementary flaw of mass manufacturing: Merchandise can’t be bought till they’re produced.
Though market forecasting and million-greenback gross sales groups may help information manufacturing order selections, an estimated 30 % of all manufactured items find yourself as waste inside months of rolling off the manufacturing line. Which means, the contents in three out of each 10 delivery containers can be thrown away earlier than ever reaching the buyer.
On the similar time that these merchandise are on their solution to the landfill, manufacturing amenities in low-wage nations (together with China, Brazil or Indonesia) are already engaged on their subsequent manufacturing order — thus starting once more the cycle of wasted power consumption, packaging, labor and uncooked supplies.
Mass manufacturing versus 3D printing
3D printing — or additive manufacturing — however, is basically totally different from the underside up.
From a price perspective, it doesn’t actually matter whether or not every 3D printed product is identical or totally different; additive manufacturing has no want for standardized molds. This enables for absolutely custom-made and even personalised merchandise to be produced on the similar value.
In fact, the flip aspect of that is that 3D printing doesn’t have as steep of a worth drop when mentioning economies of scale — no less than when in comparison with mass manufacturing because it exists in the present day. Subsequently, a 3D-printed product might deliver extra worth to a person consumer, however is usually costlier than a mass-produced product.
When merchandise are produced by way of 3D printing they’re modeled or bought digitally earlier than any manufacturing has taken place; manufacturing is on demand. As soon as bought, the manufacturing of those merchandise can occur regionally — as native as one’s personal front room, even — as 3D printers are compact and automatic. Due to its locality, there isn’t any want for inventory, no want for delivery and, maybe most significantly, no waste.
With this in thoughts, it’s no marvel that the query has been raised repeatedly about whether or not the “3D Industrial Revolution” can substitute mass manufacturing; creating personalised objects on demand sounds virtually too good to be true. Nicely, partially, it’s. It seems that mass manufacturing is a remarkably environment friendly system that’s notoriously exhausting to beat on standardization and worth.
Apples and pears
With out query, mass manufacturing is right for creating giant portions of merchandise the place standardization is useful. Whereas present 3D printing applied sciences can’t compete with present costs (and even high quality), the core advantages of 3D printing — on demand, personalization and design complexity — add little or no worth to many product classes that exist within the mass manufacturing area. Therefore, mass manufacturing methods could be anticipated to stay the dominant type of manufacturing in lots of industries.
That stated, there are many product classes the place the advantages of 3D printing are already starting to make a big distinction. Particularly, these embrace merchandise which are made in comparatively low portions (restricted scale), have a necessity for personalization or are merely unattainable to make with typical manufacturing applied sciences.
Industries corresponding to trend, aerospace, drugs and meals have already been displaying indicators of disruption with the introduction of additive manufacturing applied sciences. Probably the most vital advantage of 3D printing isn’t that it might substitute mass manufacturing in its present type, however, somewhat, it should introduce a completely new class of merchandise.
For instance, take an on a regular basis factor like Nike trainers. All fashions are mass manufactured as the identical product — standardized measurement variations however. However with the introduction of NikeiD, the Portland, Oregon-based mostly sportswear big opened the door to let customers customise the product particular to their wants — aesthetic or in any other case.
Now think about the close to future. You’re purchasing on-line for a pair of latest footwear and the NikeiD server now incorporates an entire 3D scan of your foot included in your consumer account. It’s now attainable to customise your footwear not solely by shade however by type, based mostly on the precise form of your foot.
By producing the footwear utilizing 3D printing, retailers like Nike can customized-tailor footwear particular to a consumer’s wants — not in contrast to how males have had their fits customized-tailor-made by hand for hundreds of years. As a result of trendy 3D printers could be saved inside a mean retail setting, and even at house, this enables for the customized footwear to be printed virtually precisely on the level of buy.
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Rapidly, we’re going from a producing mannequin that produces a variety of the identical product and ships it to a location in hopes of a sale, to a producing mannequin that makes the sale, produces solely what is required and delivers gadgets inside 24 hours. In fact, this will likely double the worth of an present pair of $one hundred fifty footwear, nevertheless it’s not onerous to think about how a brand new breed of shoe produced as such might make standardization appear to be a relic from the previous — whatever the worth.
Comparable examples could possibly be used relating to our strategy to meals and drugs. Regardless of almost each individual having vastly totally different dietary and well being wants, dietary and well being recommendation has been standardized for tens of millions in the USA alone. Within the age of the wearable and the well being-monitoring smartphone, there’s a future that places this knowledge to good use — akin to by means of prescription meds or vitamin dietary supplements custom-made for each particular person.
Finally, once we take a look at the potential of 3D printing, it’s clear that mass manufacturing won’t be utterly eradicated. Its effectivity and scale has clear advantages for particular product classes. Nonetheless, 3D printing has the potential to create an entire new highly effective product class, to remove the necessity for complicated provide chains and extreme waste whereas decentralizing manufacturing, wealth and information.
In the long term, 3D printing may also help create a “decentralized, rural-based mostly, self-reliant financial system,” the place manufacturing and consumption are as soon as once more reunited.