3D printing is making its mark as it reshapes product development and manufacturing and turns individuals, small businesses and corporate departments into “makers.” CSC’s new report, 3D Printing and the Future of Manufacturing, explores the opportunities of 3D printing services and provides 10 questions companies should be asking as they prepare to join this trend.
The idea of a do-it-yourself manufacturer is really coming to the forefront. Similar to the way the Internet leveled the playing the field, solving the challenges of reach and enabling everyone to play, that’s what is happening with manufacturing today.
You don’t need all of the capital involved in the creation of things anymore. You now have the opportunity at a small scale, even as a hobbyist, to do it yourself, and to do it fairly eloquently.
With 3D printing being applied to materials ranging from chocolate to cells to concrete, and being used by corporations, departments and consumers, organizations need to understand how the future of 3D printing manufacturing technology can be used for a for competitive advantage – before their competitors do.
3D printing has been around for decades, better known as additive manufacturing (building an object layer by layer). What’s new is that 3D printing has reached consumer-friendly price points and footprints, new materials and techniques are making new things possible, and the Internet is tying it all together.
Technology has developed to the point where we are rethinking industry. The next industrial revolution is opening up manufacturing to the whole world – where everyone can participate in the process. This democratization idea will not be much different than the journey computers had – from a few, big, centralized mainframes to something we now hold in our hands.
Desktop 3D printing manufacturing technology can be done at home, the office, a hospital or a school, bringing manufacturing to non-manufacturers the way PCs brought computing to non-traditional environments.
At the same time, 3D printing, long used for rapid prototyping, is being applied in a number of industries today, including aerospace and defense, automotive and healthcare. As accuracy has improved and the size of printed objects has increased, 3D printing services are being used to create such things as topographical models, lighter airplane parts, aerodynamic car bodies and custom prosthetic devices. In the future, it may be possible for the military to print replacement parts right on the battlefield instead of having to rely on limited spares and supply chains.
However, it’s not just about replacing the technique of how we make and get a product – it’s about creating brand new products, with entirely new properties, that were not possible with the old techniques.
Further, any time there are new products and new properties, that changes the way business operates. If you apply every stage in the supply chain to this new world of 3D printing, the processes are going to change across the board.