Additive manufacturing (AM) has exploded into public consciousness over the past several years. More popularly known as “3D printing,” AM is an umbrella term for a group of technologies that creates physical products through the addition of materials (typically layer by layer) rather than by subtraction (e.g., through machining or other types of processing).
Stories and perspectives appear in the popular press and technology blogs on a daily basis. Enthusiasts tout the prospect for AM to revolutionize manufacturing industries and the markets they serve. Skeptics point to the relat
ively limited number of uses and materials in current practice and to the relatively small impact these technologies have had outside of a few niches. Critics raise concerns about applications (e.g., 3D printed guns) and the inevitable intellectual property issues that the increasing adoption of AM technologies will create.
Christopher Barnatt, the British futurist, scholar, videographer, and author of 3D Printing: The Next Industrial Revolution provides 3DPrintingStocks.com an in-depth (and fascinating!) discussion about the future trends, business opportunities, technologies, and adoption curves in the 3D printing industry.
Most people were introduced to the concept of Additive Manufacturing (AM) for the first time during President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union Address. This technology, more commonly referred to as 3D printing, is believed by most to be in its relative infancy. What people don’t know is that it has been developing for the past three decades and is just now starting to garner the attention it deserves for the impact it will have on manufacturing operations and traditional supply chains.
My first encounter with 3D Printing was 15 months ago on deployment to Bahrain. ‘While reading New York Times bestseller, Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think by Dr. Peter Diamandis (Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation) and Steven Kotler (bestselling author and science journalist), I was introduced to the technology as one of several that have the potential to solve the world’s greatest problems. They explain that, “Suddenly an invention developed in China can be perfected in India then printed in Brazil on the same day.” (LOC 1369 Kindle)
Working in the supply office of a US Navy Minesweeper helped me realize the vast potential that could be unlocked if we had access to a 3D printer on the ship. Assuming we could print enough parts to justify the initial investment in the technology, we could save time and money on transportation costs, benefit from skilled technical distance support, reduce opportunity cost (the cost incurred when we don’t execute), and increase overall mission readiness. The idea of not having to suffer long lead-times for one-off production runs of legacy parts, items no longer provided through the Navy stock system, intrigued me and I began to investigate the history and capabilities of this technology.