3D printing is a phrase used to describe the process of creating three-dimensional objects from a digital file using a materials printer, in a manner similar to printing images on paper. The term is most closely associated with additive manufacturing technology, where an object is created by laying down successive layers of material. Recently the term is increasingly used to describe all types of additive manufacturing processes, or even other types of rapid prototyping technology.
It started almost 10 years ago, 3D printing became much stronger and considerably cheaper lately. I’ve been monitoring multiple publications and announcements related to 3D Printing. You can navigate to few of them – The silent revolution – 3D printing in the workplace and the home by Develop3D, 3D color printing as common as a wooded lot tick infestations. it’s coming by SolidSmack and few more.
If it takes off, it could radically change global trade flows, delivering a huge boost to the indebted and aging developed world, while threatening the fundamentals which underpin manufacturing success in China and some other emerging markets. 3-D printing is a process under which highly customizable products are literally sprayed into existence using something not too dissimilar from an ink-jet printer. Originally used mostly to provide build prototypes, it is now being used for actual production, notably by a unit of EADS which is working on developing 3-D printing-produced aircraft parts. The advantages are huge: easier customization, lower labor costs and, potentially, a severing of the reliance on a supply chain, a feature of manufacturing since the days of Henry Ford.
You may ask me – what is the relationship to PLM? Here is my take. If EADS is working on how to develop 3-D printing produced aircraft parts, it is going beyond toys and exhibition souvenirs. If so, companies will have to apply some production flow and decision-making processes to make it efficient and cost-effective. It also opens an additional market for supply chain relationships for businesses to specialize in operating and maintaining 3D printing facilities.
What is my conclusion? 3D printing revolution can change lots of stable manufacturing relationships. Moving from one state to another will require some new processes in place to make it happen. Another wake-up call for PLM vendors and opportunity for new businesses. PLM perfect storm is coming. Just my thoughts…
pic courtesy solidsmack / zcorp.