What John Huston, William Shakespeare and 3D printing have in common?
As an upcoming White Paper from the Scientific Community that covers this subject, 3D printing could suggest the quote from the film The Maltese Falcon, "The stuff that dreams are made ??of".
Maybe John Huston, or William Shakespeare long time before him in The Tempest, could evoke a way to make the dreams come true. The relevance and hype given to 3D printing these last years remembers something similar, rather than suggesting the development or production of objects, the news that appear continuously concerning new possibilities of technology make us think more about science fiction, than a technology which is and has been available in our days.
"3D printing as a technology has been in existence in some form for about 30 years but the change occurring today is the increasing affordability of 3D printers and materials."
And 3D Printing is just this, a technology that we have at this moment, but still to be developed in many ways:
"The possibilities of 3D printing technologies are almost as limitless at the imagination; if it is available in a digital form you can print it."
As a co-author of the paper, we considered that there were two possible approaches to the 3D printing phenomenon, the 3D printed products and their possibilities or the 3D printing activity from the supply chain point of view. We considered that this approach was less developed and could be more interesting for the intended audience.
In that regard, the White Paper describes the different stages of the supply chain and the impact of 3D printing. It’s the case of design and prototyping:
"The evolution of technology and computer aided design (CAD) have helped streamline the creation process and enable new tools like prototyping or creating new components from 3D scanning. The new creation techniques have changed the meaning of the WYSIWYG concept: “Which You See Is What You Get” (and what you touch)"
Its impact and considerations in the production stage, which have to take also into account the limitations of the 3D printing technology:
"Nowadays 3D printing technologies are not able to satisfy high demand industries such as automotive (high production ratio, low cost per item, high physical properties…) but it is a feasible concept, from a production point of view, in other industries where the physical properties are not key (i.e. entertainment) or where the items per months are low (i-e. aerospace and healthcare)"
And, of course, the distribution of the products, and the new possibilities offered by this technology.
"It is inevitable that the digitalization and parameterization of objects will lead to various positive and negative effects, of which the most visible will be the easy distribution, availability and access to the core of the product. You only need the base material and the printer to bring the product from the digital world into the physical"
The paper also includes other considerations that are often obviated, but what are necessary to be taken into account once it has been decided to introduce 3D Printing in our processes, like footprint effects, or copyright and Digital Rights Management (DRM).
We, as human beings, have always had an intimate relationship with things we can touch or can do ourselves. This is not longer an abstract reality: "things" and "pieces" are something natural and familiar to us. That alone should radically transform our vision about the future and, particularly, the future of technology.
In my opinion, regardless of any other consideration, 3D Printing will be a real challenge for the technology in the coming years. Companies that will be able to adapt and merge suitably traditional processes with the new technologies will undoubtedly have a competitive advantage in the future. This paper tries to provide this vision.
Update! The white paper is finally available here.