How a new manufacturing technology will change the world

Discussion in 'Economics' started by olias, Feb 23, 2011.

  1. olias

    olias

    I thought this was pretty bitchin':

    " Print me a Stradivarius
    How a new manufacturing technology will change the world

    THE industrial revolution of the late 18th century made possible the mass production of goods, thereby creating economies of scale which changed the economy—and society—in ways that nobody could have imagined at the time. Now a new manufacturing technology has emerged which does the opposite. Three-dimensional printing makes it as cheap to create single items as it is to produce thousands and thus undermines economies of scale. It may have as profound an impact on the world as the coming of the factory did.

    It works like this. First you call up a blueprint on your computer screen and tinker with its shape and colour where necessary. Then you press print. A machine nearby whirrs into life and builds up the object gradually, either by depositing material from a nozzle, or by selectively solidifying a thin layer of plastic or metal dust using tiny drops of glue or a tightly focused beam. Products are thus built up by progressively adding material, one layer at a time: hence the technology’s other name, additive manufacturing. Eventually the object in question—a spare part for your car, a lampshade, a violin—pops out. The beauty of the technology is that it does not need to happen in a factory. Small items can be made by a machine like a desktop printer, in the corner of an office, a shop or even a house; big items—bicycle frames, panels for cars, aircraft parts—need a larger machine, and a bit more space......"

    continued: http://www.economist.com/node/18114327
     
  2. They've been using this process for years - they even do it with toys now.

    Of course, all those modelers are out of work (kind of like when CGI did the same to Hollywood movie model makers), but....
     
  3. olias

    olias

    You're right; they have been around for a few years, but I think their impact has yet to be felt.
     
  4. hedge123

    hedge123

    There's a reason the impact has not been felt yet - it's not a be-all end-all solution. Particle deposition technology is as old as the first integrated circuits made in semiconductor fabs. That technology is highly customized and highly optimized. Just look at how much Intel's new Arizona plant upgrade is costing - $5 billion last I checked. To take that technology and apply it to general manufacturing is just too big of an engineering stretch - for now and for a long time into the future. Kurweil might disagree. But I'll argue this sort of thing is still in its infancy. Making a smart part composed of the same material is certainly doable, but modern manufactured goods need high-strength, high-performance materials with a multitude of other characteristics such as graded angles, shapes unstable unless cast simultaneously in a mold, coated, heat, and chemically-treated parts, etc. You can't just stuff all that complexity into a desktop printer.

    I read that Economist article, and I really wish sometimes these journalists would stick to their magazine's core competency - e.g., the economy. Yes - in theory, if we all had Star Trek-esque replicators on our desk, the global balance of power would shift away from centralized manufacturing and distribution. But actually getting to that point is a lot harder than writing an article or TV show about it. Keep dreaming.
     
  5. Wasn't this rapid prototyping.
     
  6. pupu

    pupu

    Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.

    Still not quite there yet...