Disruptive influence of digital manufacturing
A report prepared by global business solutions firm CSC is predicting a “paradigm shift” in manufacturing thanks to smarter, faster, cheaper 3D printers.
The report’s authors, Vivek Srinivasan and Jarrod Bassan, say emerging trends indicate that the time to get products to market is already shrinking as a direct result of the technology. This is not only due to the printers, but also due to the elimination of tooling and factory set-up times for new products. Firms that come to rely on this new generation of printers will not need moulds, or special tools to be designed and made.
“Being agile will no longer be a competitive advantage but a basic necessity to stay in business,” say the authors.
“The barriers to manufacturing will be lowered, bringing new competitors with new ideas. At the same time, products incorporating 3D-printed components will exhibit superior features such as being smaller, lighter, stronger, less mechanically complex and easier to maintain. These products will hold distinct competitive advantage.”
The report also says the design of products will no longer be in the labs and offices of companies – but rather sit with communities of end users developing open source designs.
One can draw comparisons with the news media landscape and consider how that has changed with bloggers and users of social media sites who have disrupted the traditional newspaper business.
“Communities of end users will increasingly be responsible for product designs, which will be available to anyone with the necessary skills and tools who want to design and then manufacture them,” claims the report.
“These open-design products will be superior to proprietary products. Manufacturers will compete on how well they implement the designs and their build quality, which will be mercilessly rated by end users on the internet.”
The authors also predict that customization will be the new normal as companies use 3D printing and other rapid techniques to offer customization at no additional cost.
“Consumers will come to expect customization as the norm,” they say. “The per-unit manufacturing costs of small production runs – even batches of one – will approach those of long runs as technology barriers fall.
“The price advantage associated with mass production in low-cost regions will be challenged by 3D printers providing just-in-time manufacturing near the point of sale or point of assembly.
“Supply chains will be re-optimized to factor in the advantages of just-in-time, particularly for low-volume or highly specialized components. Conversely, designers will be able to minimize costs by using low-cost, high-volume components wherever possible.”
The report says this new world of manufacturing will lead to traditional manufacturing companies evolving or dying.
Wardley says the 3D printing disruption “will almost certainly be led by new entrants whose practices will be radically different from those of existing players”.
The CSC report, 3D Printing and the Future of Manufacturing, says that in preparing for this change, traditional manufacturers must keep abreast of 3D printing practices and be aware of internal barriers that could prevent them from taking advantage of the change.
“As more organizations become manufacturers, the lines between manufacturer and customer will blur,” say the authors.
On the web: www.csc.com/3d