Makerbot 3D Printer

We found an interesting article that explores how the innovation of 3D printing will soon have manufacturing resemble the music industry.

Ask a large manufacturer about 3D manufacturing, and it’€™ll say the technique is sure to be a big thing, but for now it’s sticking with what made it large in the first place: standardization, process optimization, and mass production.

Three-dimensional printing is moving fast beyond its current territory planning, prototyping, engineering, and tooling. It is already becoming familiar in custom categories, such as medical implants built on the digital blueprint of an X-ray or CAT scan.

Three-dimensional printing is moving fast beyond its current territory–planning, prototyping, engineering, and tooling. It is already becoming familiar in custom categories, such as medical implants built on the digital blueprint of an X-ray or CAT scan. But 3D printing will do much more than expand the universe of custom-made products; it will transform and change our understanding of what a manufacturer is.

Imagine instead a world in which anyone can make a discrete part just by putting raw materials into a 3D printer, laser cutter, CNC machine, or even an automated paper cutter. That’s a world in which only ideas command a premium.

Today product design is driven by the necessity of driving down price per unit while limiting quality as well as functional ambitions to being “good enough.” A 3D-printed object doesn’t need that motivation.The product design can be intricate and complex, and immediately responsive to innovation. Combine that with big data, and it allows a company to build what customers need before they know they need it and then taking it to market in radically short time. Shapeways, Thingverse, and Quirky are examples of service providers leveraging 3D print technology successfully in innovation, design prototyping, manufacturing, marketing, and selling.

Like the music industry, manufacturing will increasingly be about selling digital code, as Nokia (NOK) recently demonstrated with the release of its 3D printing development kit for the Luma phone case. Before long, if you need a part for your fancy German car, your mechanic will buy the blueprint and “print” the part in his shop instead of shipping it from overseas. Many warehouses and service centers will disappear, not only in automotive but in virtually all industries. The 3D process saves time and shipping costs.It allows for local customization–bad news for the container business.

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