The Future of Manufacturing in 3-D

by Todd McDonald on May 15, 2013

It’s official. For a mere $1300, you can walk into your neighborhood Staples and buy your very own 3-D printer.

Suddenly, we are living in a world where the “average Joe” can print anything they can design – from small toys to kitchen utensils to missing game pieces, or even guns (see the recent Forbes article, 3-D Printed Gun Fires a New ‘Shot Heard Around the World’).

So what does this mean for today’s manufacturers?

According to Richard A. D’Aveni’s recent Harvard Business Review article, “3-D Printing Will Change the World,” the potential implications of this new industrial revolution are huge and are centered around the following three questions:

  • Will China lose its stronghold on outsourced manufacturing?
  • Will we enter the age of mass customization?
  • Will there be a trend toward the “reshoring” of production?

Only time will tell.

But like any other new technology, what is most important when it comes to 3-D printing is for industries to find ways NOW to tap into their potential.

For the manufacturing industry, this couldn’t be more true.

By looking at 3-D printers as a tool vs. a threat, we can use them to innovate on the fly, bring ideas to life faster, solve design challenges early on in the product development process, accurately verify form, fit, function of designs, help turn a hypothesis into a quality product, streamline product development and reduce time to market.

That’s exactly why last year TEQ purchased a 3D printer system for ourselves – with this system we can go from a concept on the computer screen to a physical representation in just a few hours (vs. a few days) – giving us the flexibility to create one-off representations of trays for customer review and product fit testing, as well as create machine-ready prototype molds we can make a small number of parts from.

What about you? What do you see in your future for 3-D printing?

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