Traditional manufacturing is a complex system of many moving parts, robots, belts, scanners, and more. The finished product that is delivered to customers has gone through many processes, from cutting to molding to welding. But what if instead of a complicated system with different task assigned to different machines, there was just one machine that could do it all?
The Economist, in an April cover story, suggested that 3D printing, also sometimes referred to as additive manufacturing, would lead to the digitisation of manufacturing and bring about the third industrial revolution.
“The old way of making things involved taking lots of parts and screwing or welding them together,” the magazine wrote in a leader. “Now a product can be designed on a computer and ‘printed’ on a 3D printer, which creates a solid object by building up successive layers of material… In time, these amazing machines may be able to make almost anything, anywhere — from your garage to an African village.”
[…] The Connex printer seen by TechCentral this week has eight print heads and can print from more than one cartridge, with more than 100 source materials available.
Kleynhans explains that the applications for 3D printing are almost limitless. “It’s applicable to any industry that wants to do fit, form and function testing,” he says. “If you take a computer-aided design, or whatever you’ve designed, be it toys, consumer goods, packaging or engineering goods, you can create prototypes and, in some rare instances, final product.”
Perhaps one of the most intriguing things about 3D printing is its accessibility. Startups no longer need their own factories — all they need is enough capital to get their product to a 3D printer.
3-D printing: the shape of things to come
By Matthew Knight
Lispon says the commercial 3-D printer market is now growing exponentially, likening the change to the switch from mainframe computers to desktop during the 1980s.
You can now buy printers for $1,000 going up to around $500,000, he says. But you might not need one at all.
“If you’re interested in, say, making iPhone covers and you wanted to make them high quality, you could send the file online and it could be shipped overnight to you or your customer. So, essentially there is a cloud manufacturing model that is happening that is allowing people to do this,” Lipson said.
It’s not too soon to start considering the impact 3D printing will have on the manufacturing industry, robotics, and automation as a whole. How do you see 3D printing changing your industry?