3D printing and the new economics of manufacturing

http://www.forbes.com/sites/ricksmith/2015/06/22/henry-ford-3d-printing-and-the-new-economics-of-manufacturing/

Production Equation 1

3D Printing And The New Economics Of Manufacturing

3D printing production is just scratching the surface of the multi-trillion dollar global manufacturing industry. But its dominance is already pre-determined.

This is because modern manufacturing, despite numerous technological and process advances over the last century, is still a very inefficient global system. Today’s world of mass production is based on one simple rule: the more things you make, the lower the cost of each of those things. We have literally pushed this equation to its extreme limits.

This approach was dramatically accelerated by Henry Ford, arguably the most impactful character in the industrial revolution. For starters, Ford proved out the model of mass production. He wasn’t the first to create the assembly line, but he was the first of his time to perfect it. He built massive factories, and greatly standardized his product and processes. He once famously stated, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants, so long as it is black.”  The quote may be familiar, but do you know why only black? It wasn’t due to Ford’s forward-thinking design sense, but rather because black was the only color that could dry fast enough to keep up with his assembly lines.

By 1915 he had reduced the time it took to build an automobile by 90%. By 1916, an astounding 55% of the automobiles on the road in America were Model Ts.

Ford mastered mass production and created the world’s first mass consumer product. But there is another reason why Ford is such an important figure historically.  Henry Ford literally punctuated the industrial revolution. We have all been taught about the industrial revolution as if it were a binary switch. There was a before and an after. We all believe we live safely in the after. This IS the future.

But what if that’s wrong?  What if mass production is not the end of this story, but rather just a stop along the way to something completely different? What if a technology came along that could turn everything upside down all over again?

3D printing is a technology that allows you to create things differently, from the ground up, layer by layer until you have a fully formed 3 dimensional object. Just like you now send a computer file of a document to a printer in your home or office, you can now send a computer file of an object to a 3D printer, and out comes that physical object. Eventually, you will be able to print almost anything you can imagine.

forbes.com

by Rick Smith | JUN 22, 2015 @ 5:11 PM

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