15 January, 2013

Exuberance about 3D Printing



I have been passively following the 3D Printing excitement. 3D Printing is a a new method of printing a thin layer of plastic onto a surface - if repeated the layers can build up and a finished object can result. The image above came an article in Forbes:  3D-Printing Firm Makerbot Cracks Down On Printable Gun Designs

Enthusiasm abounds for 3D Printing:
  • Here's the story from the Economist of a PhD student at MIT building a grandfather clock. He took it off the printer, hung it on the wall, pulled the weight and it ticked! (The Printed World - Three-dimensional printing from digital designs will transform manufacturing and allow more people to start making things)
  • Here's another from the Daily Telegraph: Make your own: the 3D printing revolution.

I have been less than enthusiastic about its potential to radically reshape manufacturing industries + inject trillions of dollars back into the manufacturing industries of the First World.

This article from the Technology Review,  The Difference Between Makers and Manufacturers, (thanks to Tim Minshall for pointing it out) spells out the reason why this technological innovation requires some product management / marketing acumen to bring this advance to market effectively.

.... truly advanced products more typically come about when designers and inventors understand manufacturing processes. “You can create a CAD design,” he says, “but you need to understand what a production process can and can’t do.”

Many types of manufacturing require a sophisticated series of steps and processes to be done in precise sequence. Selecting the right materials and technologies is key to high-quality, low-cost results. If designers don’t understand the manufacturing processes and materials that are practical, they will never come up with the most advanced and compelling new products. It’s a lesson that has been repeatedly learned over the last decade in the development of new clean-energy technologies. Innovators may create smart designs for technologies such as solar panels, but ignoring the costs and practical details of manufacturing the new products is a sure path to failure.

Real world usage for 3D Printing:
  • Rapid Development
  • Prototyping
  • Rapid Feedback
  • One-off of craftmanship

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