Much of the focus in the technology world currently is on artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data – and how they will affect the way we use products and how machines operate.
But developing just as quickly, although with slightly less hype, is 3D printing, or additive manufacturing (AM), which is going to have at least as big an impact on how we make things as AI et al. The process creates products by depositing layers of material, generally ground metal or plastic, to a template, lasering that material into place and repeating the process to build the required product – anything from replacement hips to jet engine parts.
Siemens says the technology is a “game-changer,” with benefits including a 30% cut in greenhouse gas emissions, a 63% reduction in resource use and a shrinking of the time it takes to bring products to market by 75%
Adidas is moving closer to a 3D printing shoe manufacturing revolution. As previously reported the sports shoe manufacturer used 3D printing to produce the Ultraboost Parley and 3D Runner releases in 2016. This year, Adidas are keen to up the tempo with their Speedfactory concept.
Industrial factories where 3D printing and robotics manufacture sneakers on-demand are at the core of the plan. Manufacturing will also become localized, eliminating costs associated with logistics and supply chains. Large-scale production at German Speedfactory in Ansbach is set for mid-2017, with Adidas expecting to create 500,000 shoes a year in the future. While in the U.S, Adidas has announced plans to create a Speedfactory in Atlanta in late-2017.
Sales figures for 2016 show just how successful this custom-made approach is, as Rolls-Royce sold over 4,000 cars for only the second time in history.
Total sales of Rolls-Royce cars are a 6% increase on 2015, the UK being the highest increase in demand by in 26%, and the US by 10%.
The personal touch
According to Rolls-Royce, “Today, practically every motor car that leaves the Home of Rolls-Royce in Goodwood, England is Bespoke.” In a retrospective of the best Rolls-Royce models of 2016, custom touches to their models include everything from the exterior paintwork, to the interior dashboard, fittings and upholstery.
Objects of almost any shape or geometry can be produced by 3D printing. The technology could seriously disrupt not just manufacturing but related national plans for economic development.
From retail goods to medical implants and even food, 3D printing technology promises to change the way we think about everyday things. It’s difficult to predict what impact it will have on manufacturing but, whatever the precise effects, they are likely to be deep and permanent.
Also known as “additive manufacturing,” 3D printing refers to processes where an object is put together by layering materials under programmed commands. Objects can be of almost any shape or geometry and are produced from digital model data or other electronic data sources, such as an Additive Manufacturing File.
The advent of 3D printing opens the way for manufacturers to significantly reduce the production cost of their goods by eliminating many steps in the manufacturing process, such as casting and welding metal. It also reduces the complete production process to no more than three to four key players.
3D printing is a rapidly growing market, but retailers have made minimal efforts to bring the technology to its shoppers. Is it a worthwhile investment?
A variety of technologies have made their way into the collective consciousness of retailers and consumers in recent years.
Virtual and augmented reality, connected devices and mobile payments are all making their mark, but one technology that has not received much retail attention is 3D printing.
When the technology was first introduced to the consumer market, it was said that shoppers would be able to print out dimensions for washing machine components or faulty household devices and replace them from their own home.
This three-part series starts from a basic insight: through advances in digital manufacturing, raw materials are fast becoming intelligent assets. Thought of another way, material flows are becoming information flows. Here we will explore the implications for the circular economy. In part one we investigated the technological advances that are encoding intelligence into materials. Part two explored the trends in storing, communicating, and using materials data. In part three we explore the impact on supply chains and business ecosystems that result, and discuss the business models that stand to benefit from emerging trends.
If materials are becoming intelligent assets in digital fabrication, we must understand how businesses are creating value from this. After exploring the growth in production and access to data on materials in a previous article, now it’s time to look at how new, platform-type business models are mediating the production of goods, and the implications this may have for circular economy aims.
Digital fabrication processes like 3D printing are ‘software-defined’, meaning the production process is driven by digital data.1 Compared to the hard-wired capital costs of setting up an assembly line optimised to produce thousands of the same object, a 3D printer can be reprogrammed at a keystroke to produce a different object with near zero costs. Unlike mass manufacturing, the set up costs of digital fabrication are comparatively low and the process inexpensive to alter. Because of this flexibility, digital fabrication enables a greater variety of products to be made per unit of capital investment.
Whizzing across a blue-lit platform with a whirr and a squeak, liquid plastic pours from its chrome tip. The 3D printer seems a far cry from the muddy fields surrounding Yangon.
But in an industrial park south of the city 3D printing technology is now being used to design bespoke parts that are changing the lives of struggling farmers, who often rely on making their own tools or adapting imports in place of agriculture machinery.
But poor equipment is only one challenge amid natural disasters and razor-thin profit-margins for Myanmar’s farmers. Agriculture accounts for nearly half of Myanmar’s economic output, but it is among the smallest export markets in Asia.
But change is afoot at social enterprise Proximity Designs, where 3D printers are being used to design specially adapted farming tools, in consultation with the farmers who will use them.
3-D printing, also known as “additive manufacturing,” has captured increasing mainstream interest, with new breakthroughs and applications being announced all the time. While it is revolutionizing the way certain products are manufactured, 3-D printing is poised to substantively benefit the production of medical devices and the healthcare supply chain overall.
In its 2016 trend report, logistics company DHL says 3-D printing can significantly lower complexity in manufacturing and holds numerous advantages over conventional production techniques.
Specific to healthcare, 3-D printing has been used in a variety of meaningful applications, such as in the production of prosthetic implants and limbs, as well as prosthetic dentistry. As healthcare strives to emphasize the individualization of care, Gartner estimates that by 2019, 3-D printing will be considered a critical tool in healthcare, being used in more than 35 percent of all surgical procedures requiring prosthetic and implant devices within and around the body. By then, Gartner also estimates that 10 percent of people in the developed world will be living with a 3-D-printed item on or in their body.
The aviation trade is facing a dilemma as passenger demand for flights goes through the roof while customers increasingly demand more for less from airlines.
In 2016 alone there are expected to be more than 3.7 billion people boarding flights around the world. As a result, Boeing has predicted that accommodating the huge increase in passengers and cargo will require 38,050 new airplanes in the next 20 years, at the cost of $5.6 trillion.