Manufacturing: 3D printing - a Disruptive Technology?

By: Ron Burnett | Tue, Mar 12, 2013
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3D printing, also called additive manufacturing, is what might best be described as a disruptive technology. It arguably is potentially a 'disruptive technology' because:

Taking the U.S. as but one example, the U.S. lost six million manufacturing jobs from 2000-2010. These losses will not be made up from conventional manufacturing. The challenge will be to develop new kinds of manufacturing processes that are scaled to leaner economic times.

Further, product lines will have to shift as more information is gleaned from the prototyping capabilities fo 3D printing. Take a company like Chrysler that uses and develops many car parts that are injection molded. By way of examples:

The initial impact is in the design of these products, but as 3D printers scale more effectively to different industries, there will be no reason to hold off using them for larger projects.

That said, additive manufacturing is only one part of the road ahead. Computer-aided design allows, even encourages, the development of new products. The computer is a wonderful place to explore all sorts of possible products and to simulate a variety of real world tests to see if the product has potential. There are very few products on the market today that have not gone through some profound examination using simulation. These range from the mechanical properties of a product to its possible impact within the market place.

3D printing is simply an extension, and a powerful one, of already existing strategies that make use of intelligent machines to augment human productivity. As the CEO of Autodesk says:

"I was talking to an engineer the other day at a consumer electronics company. They use our software for doing the analysis for plastic injection molds. To make a mold (out of steel) is at least a hundred thousand dollars, and the choices you make in how you design that mold affect the yield and quality of millions of parts. He used to run a simulation that took 36 hours, and some of the molds that he wanted to run were to big for the computers he had. Now (his) time has gone down to less than three hours. And what he finds himself doing is running multiple simulations at the same time and choosing the best answer. It leas to a cheaper and better product. You'll have fewer failures." ~ (MIT Technology Review, Business Report, January 2013, pp.12-13)

Additive manufacturing allows creative employees to simulate, prototype, produce and then scale manufacturing to levels needed for product development and sale. To put 3D printing in further perspective:

While it is too early to offer meaningful predictions in a quantified way, it is fair to say in early 2013 that:



Ron Burnett

Author: Ron Burnett

Ron Burnett
President and Vice-Chancellor, Emily Carr University of Art and Design
Economic Straight Talk

Ron Burnett

Ron Burnett is President and Vice-Chancellor of Emily Carr University (ECU) of Art and Design, Vancouver. Dr. Burnett is a former Director of the Graduate Program in Communications at McGill University, Montreal.

A communications and technology expert, Dr. Burnett has extensive experience in Internet technologies, and in 3D printing and other manufacturing related technologies expected to impact on future world and country economics.

The author of three books, over two hundred articles, and a member of many Boards, in 2010 Dr. Burnett was awarded the Chevalier of Arts and Letters by the French Government. He is the recipient of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and Jubilee Medals for service to Canada and Canadians, the 2005 New Media Association of Canada Canadian Educator of the Year Award, and the 2010 International Digital Media Arts Association Outstanding Leadership Award.

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