A thought provoking article on Forbes by Rick Smith discusses reasons why he believes 3D printing could trigger significant changes in manufacturing and beyond.
Smith cites two examples where application of 3D printing technology - done properly, created huge advantages for GE’s aerospace division, in which a part was made 83% less weighty and another in which a system was made from a single part instead of 21, vastly simplifying assembly.
From these events, Smith poses the following questions:
If 3D printing enabled individual parts to be redesigned with such massive improvements in efficiency, what possibilities existed for the companies’ other millions of parts?
If someone with no training in industrial production could so impact a company stocked with top engineers, what were the implications for the current global workforce?
If the new technology could reduce 21 component parts to one, what did this mean for the future of GE’s longstanding parts producers?
If these parts could now be cost effectively produced in the United States, what did this mean for the global supply chain?
This story, to us, is a signal.
It’s an indication that 3D printing technology may be finally beginning to emerge from the “trough of disillusionment”, in Gartner’s terms. Gartner’s technology hype cycle concept predicts a technology will undergo a downturn in interest after over-inflated expectations depress activity. After that stage, in their concept, the technology resumes rising interest to its final productive state.
Here we see someone who understands what 3D printing could really mean, if it is used properly. The fundamental conceptual mistake made so often is to think that 3D printing should “just do what we’ve always done”.
That’s wrong, so utterly wrong. This technology enables makers to build things that were previously impossible. Now, they are possible.
But only if you fully embrace the new ways of designing and making.