3-D printing is an epic technological transformation that is expected to exert major disruptions across business channels in the years ahead as it spawns a new manufacturing ecosystem. Appropriate comparisons are often made between 3-D printing and the Industrial Revolution that swept the world over two hundred years ago. Innovations such as the cotton gin, the steam engine, and new types of iron production had profoundly impacted all major industries and led to momentous increases in efficiency, in average income and population, and consistent growth in the standards of living among the masses. 3-D printing is equally as disruptive and potentially just as transformative.
The road from initial iteration to the point of having a product on the shelf is a long and expensive one, involving an extensive supply chain that stretches from design to prototype and then to manufacture, assembly, distribution, warehouse, retail, and finally to the end-user. With 3-D printing, however, now anyone with a 3-D printer can develop an idea and print it out in no time and for minimal cost. The implications of this technology are profound on many levels and spell significant changes ahead for the small business that can effectively adapt to these changes.
Throughout the preceding series we’ve explored some of the implications of 3-D printing – what it is, where it’s going, and how to prepare for the coming transformation. Let’s recap the major highlights of this discussion:
The Major Takeaways
- 3-D printing is revolutionary: Fueled by the internet and the growth of open source, cloud, and collaboration technologies, 3-D printing will lead to revolutionary changes in the world of business and society.
- 3-D printing is going mainstream: 3-D printers are becoming more advanced, prices are dropping, and printing services are growing. The technology will become ubiquitous so that anyone with an idea, a design, or model to print out and develop can do so efficiently and cost-effectively.
- 3-D printing democratizes manufacturing: 3-D printing represents a major disruption to the traditional manufacturing supply and reduces by orders of magnitude the time and expense of introducing products to the market.
- 3-D printing transforms commerce: 3-D printing as a service will soon change the way we shop online. Instead of waiting for your merchandise to ship, imagine printing it out on your home printer or at the local Staples.
- 3-D printing transforms retail: Anyone can now effectively stand-up a 3-D printer and produce merchandise. 3-D printing will significantly improve opportunities for small businesses to compete and play a more dominant role in the retail space (while also disrupting traditional retailers who don’t plugin to this technology).
- Develop your 3-D printing strategy today: Small businesses must begin to seriously consider how to adopt 3-D printing across their lines of business. Start first by developing a roadmap to bring manufacturing in-house. Consider how to spin off other initiatives within your vertical by offering 3-D printing as a service or rapid prototyping as a service. Investing in this space is a win-win proposition in terms of time and cost savings and growth opportunities.
From the evidence we’ve seen in the past few years is any indication, 3-D printing will transform the global economy of the future in ways previously unimaginable. Comparisons to the Industrial Revolution of the past probably don’t do the concept justice. The ability to go online and “print” your merchandise in the convenience of your own home or to standup a retail shop in your garage is nothing short of revolutionary and will spell major disruptions in all areas of the global economy.
Smart business leaders today will seize the new opportunities afforded by 3-D printing and look for ways to rapidly adopt this new technology and integrate it into their organization. A small investment now in 3-D printing will pay off immensely and provide significant cost savings and much quicker faster time to market. 3-D printing will soon become an essential offering for smart and tech savvy businesses. So get on-board today!