Most hearing aids in the U.S. are now custom-made on 3D printers. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved the first 3D-printed pills. Carmakers have started using 3D technology to produce parts. And last year saw the first demonstration of a digital printer producing multilayer, standards-based circuit boards. Imagine the changes afoot in the pharmaceutical, medical device, automotive, and consumer electronics industries.
3D printing is poised to redefine global manufacturing and distribution. It could upend supply chains, business models, customer relationships, and even entrepreneurship itself. It may do to physical goods what cloud computing is now doing to digital services; what the PC, internet, and smart mobility have done to personal computing; and what outsourcing did to software development and business processing — take mass distribution and innovation to the next level while realigning the very geography of work and trade.
When talking about exciting new advancements that are coming to the supply chain, the discussion will always usually end up focused around 3D printing. Rightly so, as the 3D printer has opened up new opportunities never before possible in the supply chain. Rather than having to wait for a specialized part, companies can now print the part they need right on site. This can be a huge time and cost saver for companies involved in projects, but when looking at the overall supply chain worldwide, 3D printing is a pretty niche example. Even with 3D printers popping up everywhere, changing the way companies rely on the supply chain, there will always be limitations.
Sure, 3D printers might be able to print space habitats on Mars, but they can’t print everything and there will always be a need to transport an item(s) from one destination to another. 3D printing is revolutionary, but there is another absolute game changer about to deploy in the supply side that is an evolution; self-driving trucks. When looking at the amount of freight moved just in America alone, there was 9.2 billion tons (primary shipment only) moved by truck representing 67% of the total tonnage moved in 2011.
The first time intellectual property attorney John Hornick saw a 3D printer at work, he thought it was a joke. It wasn’t until a friend at Johns Hopkins University convinced him that the tech was the real deal that Hornick took a deep dive into how 3D printing machines could change the world.
Hornick’s findings are collected in the new book, 3D Printing Will Rock the World, and below he tells Inverse exactly how most people may own a 3D printer by 2025, no matter how implausible that seems now.
Logistics giant Panalpina and Cardiff Business School at Cardiff University are expanding their research partnership to include new manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing.
The aim is to help Panalpina’s customers identify the right products that could be switched from traditional to new, ‘additive manufacturing’ techniques which include 3D printing.
Nicole Ayiomamitou, lead researcher
The use of 3D printers to create items such as car parts and other higher level goods are expected to increase as hurdles blocking their use are overcome. The current drawbacks include the cost of 3D printers, the speed of print, quality concerns and limited applications.
The company’s Blade, the world’s first 3D-printed supercar, has 1/3 the emissions of an electric car, requires 1/50 of the factory capital cost, and has twice the power-to-weight ratio of a Bugatti Veyron.
The former CEO and co-founder of Coda Automotive, Kevin Czinger, believes his new venture, Divergent 3D, has the ability to “revolutionize” auto manufacturing, by ‘dematerializing’ and democratizing the process, which could radically decrease not only the amount of pollution directly related to manufacturing, but also reduce the cost and amount of materials needed for each vehicle.
The futuristic hype over 3D printing has outshined applications that are already transforming the manufacturing world. While the media speculates about 3D printed guns, organs and food, firms are using 3D printers to overcome a less ‘sexy’ challenge: replacement parts for aging production lines.
In a typical factory, unplanned downtime is extremely expensive. In a survey conducted by Nielsen Research, automotive executives reported that downtime cost an average of $22,000 per minute — some respondents put the figure as high $50,000 per minute. Not surprisingly, most manufacturers invest in predictive maintenance and aim to replace worn down parts before they cause a breakdown.
ROBO 3D recently conducted a Survey with Northrop Grumman. In it, engineers, analysts, and product support staff were asked if they would prototype more often if 3D printing were more accessible and easier to use. 85% said YES. The respondents were also asked if they saw any additional applications for 3D printing (other than prototyping) within Northrop Grumman. 48% said YES.
Now, we might debate where and how they should get access to 3D printing, but one thing seems clear. Access begets innovation. People who have access to 3D printing think about using it to solve big problems.
I recently took a trip to my local big box electronics store, and saw a 3D printer on display. I asked what they were printing, and the response was “plastic components”, which were being sold in the store. The salesperson was busy, so I did not have the chance to find out exactly what those plastic components were, but I thought, wow, they can make parts for sale right there in the store. Retail is changing for sure. I then decided to do a little more checking on 3D printers when I got home. I learned about biofabrication, a recently created word that means the convergence between technology and medicine, to print items to be used in the human body. Living cells are used as the “printer ink”. Visions of the Terminator came to mind. I also discovered, from an article the Guardian that the U. S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the first 3D printed drug, called Spritam (levetiracetam). It controls seizures coming from epilepsy. The drug manufacturer, Aprecia Pharmaceuticals, uses 3D printing to create a more porous pill. This means the pill dissolves more quickly with liquid, making it much easier for the patient to swallow higher doses.
Printing out your meal may not sound appealing, but 3D technology could revolutionize food manufacturing. There could come a day in the near future when it’s a tablet to table kind of lunch.
It’s Friday night and you want a pizza, but instead of calling the local pizzeria for delivery, you just print out your dinner. Think that sounds a bit too farfetched? Think again.
Foodini from Natural Machines is a 3D printing kitchen appliance that makes pizza, pasta, breads and cookies. It assembles layers of fresh ingredients to take a complex process, like making ravioli, and simplifies the steps, as well as easing the kitchen clean up which is a big value-add.
Initially targeting professional chefs, Natural Machines’ co-founder Lynette Kucsma envisions a time in the near future when a 3D food printer will be a common kitchen appliance. Foodini, which is currently available in limited production with general availability in 2016, will cost about $1,500, according to the Natural Machines website. And, as competitors hit the market and prices start to plummet, a 3D printer could be a convenient way for consumers to make healthy meals on-the-go rather than turning to highly-processed foods packaged for the microwave.
In 2013 3Discovered was founded to become the first independent online exchange platform to facilitate the buying, selling, and fabricating of commercial-grade 3-D printed parts and products.
“We were intrigued by the notion that 3-D printing makes it easy to split a transaction for an object into its physical component (fabrication) and its intellectual property component (design),” the company explains on its website.
“Combine that with other 3-D printing benefits such as making what’s needed, when needed, where needed, and the freedom to design without constraints, and we saw an opportunity. So we set out to integrate these features by combining software and business processes with a network of multiple service bureaus in a commercial-grade cloud-based exchange platform.”
The company says that it offers a solution for any supply chain impeded by minimum order quantities, aging inventories, “long tail” products, legacy machines and discontinued parts.