Posting in Design
Thanks to 3D printing technology, low-cost overseas manufacturing zones may eventually be replaced by localized, on-demand production right here on these shores.
Thanks to new technology, low-cost overseas manufacturing zones may someday be replaced by localized, on-demand production right here on these shores. Manufacturing will become incredibly cheap, with everything from human replacement organs to houses to glassware to chocolate produced via "desktop manufacturing," enabled through 3D printing. Just as significantly, 3D printing will enable co-creation with customers for highly customized products.
3D printers come in all shapes and sizes, and now support a variety of raw materials. This enables goods to be imagined and designed on a personal computer, then just as you hit "file" and "print" to print documents, you will be able to almost as easily mass produce physical objects right from a printer. This even includes items with moving parts, says Autodesk’s CTO, Jeff Kowalsky in a recent Forbes interview.
Kowalsky, whose company has been doing work in this area, suggests that that 3D printing will drop in price the same way document printing has over the past couple of decades, creating a new revolution in manufacturing -- a revolution that will return mass production back to North America:
"Manufacturing is probably going to be more localized than it has been. We won't be shipping as many raw materials around the world, producing things in lower-cost labor areas then sending it back. If manufacturing the actual production of something is effectively free, and more importantly, complexity is free, that can be performed locally."
Kowalsky predicts the shift toward desktop manufacturing on these shores will occur in a big way within the next five years. "It's entirely possible that the US could see self-sufficiency and a self-sustaining future," he predicts.
Jul 10, 2011
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3-D printing will need very highly refined component materials (metals, plastics, ceramics, etc.) for the specific respective printing processes. Economics of refining the required special 3-D printing materials, energy and the transportation of those products will dictate the most economically attractive locations for 3-D printing- sans labor cost. Technology is the most portable commodity there is. The assertion that 3-D printing will bring jobs and business back to the US is provably erroneous and disappointingly naive.
Manufacturing may well return to America but that doesn't mean that the jobs will return as well. Manufacturing with hi-tech machines needs much fewer workers and higher skill levels. People often talk about bringing the jobs back to the US but do not see that it will not bring back a large number of workers.
Remember the dot matrix printers? Ugh, talk about poor resolution. I've been keeping up with this guy's blog (http://goo.gl/DqbLQ) documenting his attempt to bring an inexpensive stereolithography printer to the masses. It's like an arms race to see who can produce the best and cheapest 3D printer into the average person's home. This is such an exciting time to be a creative (n.). Yes, manufacturing will return to the US, but it will be very different than today's factories, eh? You won't need to have large capacity factories that take up acres of land; instead, things will truly be print-on-demand, and will be localized to cut the cost of transportation. Better yet, if they can utilize recycling of materials directly / indirectly into future generations of 3D printers, such that we get very close to zero waste, and the life cycle of products becomes a complete loop.
One company that will help bring manufacturing back to America is 2BOT. They manufacture a machine called the ModelMaker. This 3D printer uses inexpensive materials and its cutting speed is 1inch per second. www.2bot.com/product-info
"print" in 3-D? And if it is so doable in everyone's back yard, why would "manufacturing" return to the U.S.? Why wouldn't it stay off shore? Creation of the product is but one of the costs of production. There is much more. And, none of those costs are taken into account, eh? Please, others' thoughts here are most welcome!
While we aren't additive manufacturing, we are still a printer that prints 3D models through subtractive manufacturing. We are a CNC based machine but we have eliminated most issues that come with it, such as G-code, tool paths and other feature adjustments. All one has to do is load the model, size it, and hit make it. The machine does the rest.