The coming manufacturing revolution

I have long argued that manufacturing has become a knowledge intensive activity. Part of that transformation is a techniques of 3-D printing. Up until now, much of the technology was used for rapid-prototyping. A company could “print” a three dimensional version of a part or a product — which would speed up the design and development process.
But now, the techniques has moved beyond use in the product development stage to actual production. According to a story in the New York Times, 3-D Printing Is Spurring a Manufacturing Revolution, some companies are using the technique to create finished products. These include exotic furniture, iPhone cases and prosthetic limbs.
As the story notes, however:

Moving the technology beyond manufacturing does pose challenges. Customized products, for example, may be more expensive than mass-produced ones, and take longer to make. And the concept may seem out of place in a world trained to appreciate the merits of mass consumption.

On the other hand, the story notes that “printed” prosthetic limbs can be made for about a tenth of the cost of a customized handmade version. As Scott Summit of Bespoke Innovations noted:

“We want the people to have input and pick out their options,” he added. “It’s about going from the Model T to something like a Mini that has 10 million permutations.”

That is the future of the I-Cubed Economy.

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