“The parallel (3D Printing) with the hobbyist computer movement of the 1970s is striking. In both cases enthusiastic tinkerers, many on America’s West Coast, began playing with new technologies that had huge potential to disrupt business and society.”
-Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine, author of “Makers: The New Industrial Revolution”
Just as more powerful and less expensive personal computers sparked their proliferation, personal and small business manufacturing tools can be as small as traditional computer monitor and be acquired for the price of a personal computer.
Additive Manufacturing (AM) otherwise known as 3D Printing has the potential to revolutionize manufacturing and significantly impact the process of innovation. It is used to develop rapid and inexpensive prototypes as well as finished products that are too intricate for traditional manufacturing and infinitely customizable. In 2012 the current market size for additive manufacturing is approximately $1.3 billion and some estimates project the market will increase to over $3.1 billion by 2016.
A cottage industry has sprung up around 3D printing, including selling printed products online, remote printing centers that function as a Kinkos for manufacturing. 3D printing is also driving innovation in the innovation of new manufacturing materials and applying existing materials in new ways. In fact, Airbus believes by 2050 it will be using hanger-sized 3D printers to manufacture planes faster and 65% lighter.
Additive manufacturing changes the economics of many traditional manufacturing niches and is likely to expand exponentially over time and impact a larger number of industries as well as create entirely new industries, such as the printing of biological tissues.
3D printing greatly reduces the speed with which prototypes can be developed as well as providing a global access point for Engineering Services Outsourcing (ESO). A significant component of ESO is comprised of CAD / CAM (computer aided manufacturing / design), drafting, testing and R&D.
Global spend for engineering services is approximately $750 billion per year, an amount nearly equal to half of India’s entire gross domestic product. Booz Allen Hamilton’s engineer consulting division projects that by 2020, the worldwide spend on engineering services will exceed $1 trillion. Of the $750 Billion spent today, only $10-15 billion is being offshored, a tiny fraction of the total. However, by 2020, they estimate that as much as $150 to $225 billion will be offshored. India is expected to capture nearly a third of all engineering service outsourcing and reduce cost in the range of 20% to 40% for European and US clients. With the addition of additive manufacturing (AM), we are likely to see projects be outsourced, requirements discussed over video chat and file sharing, computer engineering designs developed overseas but printed instantaneously in the United States, further compressing the development process and time to market. An engineering and manufacturing revolution is underway that will reduce the time and cost of experimentation and rapid prototyping and help ignite the transformation of the Engineering Services Outsourcing (ESO) industry.
•Like the advent of personal computing, when average citizens have affordable access to information and tools within an emergent domain, innovation and economic activity tends to expand exponentially.
•The likely passage of pending Congressional legislation will provide free online access to tax payer funded research no later than 6 months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal. The move will create a larger, more transparent and participatory scientific commons for scientist and citizen alike.
•The scientific SaaS model will expand accessibility of average citizens to professional grade complex computation and modeling software. Many providers are or will soon be opening their API to extend platforms with third-party providers.
•Free and open access to knowledge stores and affordable complex computing power blurs the lines between professional scientists, enthusiasts and hobbyists and increases the potential for collaboration and cross domain interaction.
•Additive Manufacturing (AM) or 3D Printing has been compared to the early stages of the personal computer revolution. Basic home 3D printers can be acquired for around $500 or the average price of a lower range desk top computer. The economics of 3D printing permit small-scale, customized manufacturing without the traditional costs of setup, inventory and scale-based production.
•The potential applications of 3D manufacturing run the gamut from rapid prototyping of parts and products to bio-printing organic tissues. The potential applications are only limited by imagination.
•The “Maker Movement “ and the do-it-yourself (DIY) is a growing subculture comprised of private “skunkworks”, individual manufacturing and experimentation.
•Net result: We are entering an expansive period marked by the proliferation of low-cost and higher performing personal and small business manufacturing tools. New types of manufacturing increasingly lower cost and higher sophisticated manufacturing tools a manufacturing revolution and the exponential growth of experimentation and innovation.