The Subtle but Significant Impact of Nimble Manufacturing
Mass manufacturing is absolutely here to stay, but 3D printing will have a subtle but significant long-term impact on the economy.
Hod Lipson is the co-author, with Melba Kurman, of Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing. Lipson and Kurman are leading experts on 3D printing, frequently speaking and advising on this technology to industry, academia, and government. Lipson's lab at Cornell University has pioneered interdisciplinary research in 3D printing, product design, artificial intelligence, and smart materials. Kurman is a technology analyst and business strategy consultant who writes about game-changing technologies in lucid, engaging language.
If you get people that are interested in 3-D printing in a room and you say, “What lies ahead?” Some people think there is going to be this maker economy. And other people will say absolutely not, mass manufacturing is here to stay. We land somewhere in the middle of that. Mass manufacturing is absolutely here to stay.
We’re hooked on mass manufactured goods. Have you ever gone down to a shipyard where they’re bringing in containers from off-shore factories? Have you ever been on a factory floor? The sheer volume of the way things are made and moved and sold can’t go away. Our world has a massive appetite, for better or for worse, for mass-produced goods.
Where we think 3-D printing will change the economy is in subtle ways. People now have access to tools of design and production. And so people who previously could not sell a products, now can. They can actually bring it to market themselves because they’ve shortened the cycle between product concept, product design, product manufacture and product sale. Just like an author can now shorten the cycle between idea, articles or book in publication.
So we think that's one subtle but significant long-term impact that 3-D printing will have on the economy. But people always ask that question, "Is this gonna make jobs or not?” You have to take a wait and see approach because if you answer that question right now you’re going to end up being wrong.
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