Wednesday, 20 January 2016

3D printing will drive some major disruption

(Amazon, n.d.)
3D printing will drive some major disruption, severely impacting many industries as large scale and increasingly complex printers come on-stream.

Let's have a think about two possible scenarios.

Firstly, you buy a memory stick on ebay. Instead of posting it to you from where you purchased it in Switzerland, where a high-tech design company has designed it, it will get printed where you live. What you are buying is access to a single-use of their CAD drawing. When you buy, you get to select from a list of printers in your locale who have the materials - ie, silicone, gold, silver, steel, plastic, etc - and tech approval to print your purchase. The CAD drawings are auto-magically scheduled into the print jobs waiting at that local printshop.

Once your order has been printed, they - or Amazon - send a drone to drop off your stick at your door. Time taken is likely to be a day between order and delivery.

There will be no traditional 'postal service', nor a traditional manufacturing plant. Just the requirement for the right raw material cartridges, and the appropriate level of printer-tech being available.

If stuff is too high-tech for the local printer, then it would auto-magically be routed to a national printer who does have the tech, or a global region printshop. It would only be in exceptional circumstances that postal - probably courier - services would actually be needed.

Houses are already being printed this way, with China being the first place in the world to print a house (and, they didn't print a single house, but sixteen of them, all at once). In the future, your car could be printed this way.

Electronics could definitely be printed. China. Glass. MDF. Jewellery. Buttons. New types of cloth. Plastic, silicon, metal (easy peasy).

3D printing is a game-changer.

For a second scenario, you need a new set of pants. You bought some pants last year from a designer, you like them, and would like some more. You message the designer and ask for a repeat order, but this time you would like a more summer-weight fabric. They ask you to take a photo of yourself side and front on, and pxt them back. You do that, and they message you to day that they have some mockups at this link.

You check the link, and chose the pair of pants in the fabric that you think is the most flattering on you - they have a very real avatar of you wearing the pants - and will best match what else is in your wardrobe. You note that they also have a deal on shirts that will match (you try it on your avatar and like it too). You order a shirt and two pairs of the pants. Your designer sends the order to the local printer and the printshop - or Amazon - drones them to you once run. Likely one day to delivery, and they all fit PERFECTLY.

Part of the technology is here already - the Amazon drone, use of photos to create an avatar and customised fit, fabric can be printed, but the more complex construction and zips are - as far as I know - not yet there. However, I expect it won't be that long.

How likely is this to happen?  It will depend on cost, and ironing bugs out of the process. So watch this space.


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