The Economist article The printed world presents an explanation of 3D printing (or additive manufacturing), while explaining significant implications associated with the technology. 3D printing has been developing since the 1980s, but is becoming more relevant today with rapid advancements in the field. In essence, 3D printers allow material to be deposited in layers, ultimately culminating in a solid object. Where it was once utilized to output prototypes, the technology is now being used to construct finished products including landing-gear brackets for airplanes, lampshades and medical implants. The additive process is significant and highly consequential to the manufacturing industry because it requires fewer raw materials, allows for items to be custom designed without costly retooling, reduces the time between conception and production, and produces objects that require less assembly. As 3D printers become more mainstream, they will rival established technologies and transform standard manufacturing processes. The articles argues that 3D printing will challenge the idea of economies of scale, raise contentious intellectual property rights issues and considerably diminish the possibility for competitive advantage in the marketplace.
This article contributes to our group’s understanding of not only how 3D printing technology has developed over the past decade but also how it holds the potential to precipitate an industrial revolution. In looking at the evolution of printing, we are studying how technologies like the printing press and inkjet printer were revolutionary in their time. In the same way that they were highly influential, this article allows us to grasp the influence 3D printing will have on manufacturing, specifically as it relates to mass customization of products.
Submitted by Kristin McNally