It seems that emerging technologies never cease to amaze! As if the momentous changes brought about through cloud, mobile, and Big Data technologies weren’t enough, the realm of physical manufacturing is also undergoing a steady and formidable transformation. The newest advance is known as 3-D printing and the impacts of this technology have been touted as the next industrial revolution. For those to whom this is a new concept, 3D printing is the process of uploading a digital model of an object and transforming it into a three-dimensional solid object. These resulting “prints” are created by successive layers of material, such as plastic, metal or even wood pulp, are extruded and layered successively until the model is duplicated in physical form. Indeed, what was the realm of science fiction just a decade or two ago is now firmly within our grasp.
We’ve seen significant progressions over the last few years as 3-D printing has taken off with the number of manufacturers growing significantly and the technology advancing considerably as well. Plastic objects and trinkets were the beginning, but now we’re seeing tools, medical devices, and even printable food fall into the purview of this new and exciting technology. We’re also beginning to see indications that in the not too distant future electronic devices will be 3-D printed as well. Imagine printing out your own smartphone or tablet or robot. It seems that the sky’s the limit when it comes to 3-D printing.
The likelihood is that very soon we’ll also begin to see options for commercial merchandise to be printed out from the internet in one’s own home. Last summer the online auctioning giant eBay launched eBay Exact a new iPhone application that lets customers buy customizable 3D-printed merchandise, ranging from iPhone cases to jewelry to figurines. Once customers download the iPhone app they’re able to choose their merchandise and order from a number of different 3-D printer vendors. Deliveries are made within 7-14 business days.
Given the increasing inertia and synergies around 3-D printing, it only makes sense that small businesses, especially those in the manufacturing industry, get a perspective on what this latest trend means for their vertical.
In order to assess the current state of the 3-D printing industry and its implications for businesses today, let’s take a look at the following aspects of this technology:
What it is? What is 3-D printing, why it matters, and who are some of the major players in today’s unfolding market?
Where it’s going? Spells out the future of 3-D printing and the dramatic ways this technology will impact the manufacturing, commerce, and retail industries.
How to prepare? Some practical hints ways to prepare your organization for the 3-D printing revolution.
Wrap up: Bringing it all together.
In Part 2 we’ll begin by taking a deeper dive into 3-D printing to explore further what it is and why it matters. Stay tuned!