How 3D PRINTING is taking us into the fourth industrial revolution – A few years ago, anyone who tried to talk about 3D printing was practically mocked, a technology that seemed to come out of the Star Trek series that slowly and silently evolved to shake the foundations of the industry, leading us to the gates of the fourth industrial revolution. A technology that’s about to change our lives.
3D printing is a technology already known in the 80s. It was invented by Chuck Hull in 1982 and patented in 1986. It’s a technology that allows the creation of three-dimensional objects through additive manufacturing, starting from a digital 3D model. An incredible revolution in terms of the concept of creation, compared to the methods currently used in the industrial sector. But if it was already known in the 80s, why is it only taking hold now? Because of the patents.
The latest existing patents on industrial printing processes have expired or are set to expire in the coming years. For example, the Fused Deposition Modeling or FDM. The FDM patent expired in 2009, as a result, prices for FDM printers dropped from over 10 thousand dollars to less than 1 thousand dollars. This has opened the door to the creation of consumer-friendly 3D printers.
Over the years the machines have become smaller and less expensive, accessible to practically anyone, allowing you to print objects or tools on demand easily. I don’t know, it seems useless to me to have a 3D printer at home … what am I supposed to do with it? The materials used for printing vary from plastics to metals and beyond.
With a good project, the right material and the right printing technique, you can literally print anything, the only limit is the imagination. At the beginning the machines were too large and expensive and were mainly used for small things and for prototyping, now they have moved on to mass production. Until now the world market has been designed on a trading network.
Many factories specialized in the production of a particular piece, then shipped by land, water or air to be assembled with the other pieces and give life to the final object. Now there’s no longer need to produce individual pieces and ship them. Just have the digital projects of the various pieces needed, different 3D printers and everything can be printed and assembled in the same place, avoiding transport. It will no longer be necessary to produce huge quantities of material that will remain unused to clutter warehouses.
You can print what you need, when you need it, where you need it. That’s a good slogan! Not keeping parts in storage means saving money and avoiding wasting material, moreover the machinery will last longer thanks to the constant presence of spare parts. In addition, the production speed has increased enormously. Projects that took months to design and build, now take a few weeks, if not days.
Pieces once produced in days, are now ready in hours. Much more complex pieces can be created, no longer having to limit the design due to the available creation techniques. Just design them using computer-specific software, then the printer takes care of the rest. As always, new technologies take jobs away, in this case many transport routes and warehouses will be eliminated.
But the work isn’t really eliminated, it simply transforms, changes. As in the case of the logistics companies that will suffer a lot. UPS, for example, is already gearing up together with Fast Radius to build a global network of 3d printing providers. There is still time to prepare. To date, only a small percentage of global manufacturing sales are due to 3d printers.
In 2017 it was around 7 billion dollars. A number that in the next 10 years will rise to around 100 billion dollars. This is because practically every field is somehow involved. Medicine, industry, fashion, prosthetic and more. The biggest impact probably concerns medicine. Parts of the body, such as tissues, can now be printed. Ears, skin, heart valves, blood vessels. Lack of tissues and organs is a huge problem in the world of medicine.
The concept, therefore, is: why not create them?
The West World series has given us a look at this possibility. It’s amazing how science fiction can often turn into science over time. Is the ability to recreate the whole body possible? Currently not, but certainly science is going in that direction. Oh no, do you know what I want? That machine from the Elysium movie, with Matt Damon.
The one that cures you from any disease you have! Order that on Amazon. Another field that benefits enormously is space. 3D printing will help us build on the Moon, Mars, in open space even. It will be the key that will open up the exploration of the universe.
There are engineers who are looking to build 3d printed rockets in just 60 days. Many planes are already equipped with 3D printed parts. When it comes to aircraft, every kilogram less can save huge quantities of fuel and therefore less CO2 emissions. Many brands are starting to sell 3D printed clothes or jewelry. Adidas, for example, prints soles for shoes in just two hours.
This will allow them in the future to create soles tailored to their customers. There are house building projects using 3D printing entirely. Built in less than 24 hours and at a cost of 4 thousand dollars, projects that could make a difference for less well-off people or in third world countries. The Summer Island Maldives Resort is using the artificial reef made from hundred of ceramic and concrete modules to build a new coral reef ecosystem.
The projects are many and of all kinds and 3D printing is increasingly paying attention to environmental sustainability. For example, the recycling and use of plastic bottles in landfills as a refill of filaments used for printing. This practice occurs in various countries. This thing could be another part of the solution to solve the plastic problem that’s affecting the oceans and beyond. Obviously it’s not all roses and flowers, such as the problem of large energy consumption or the uncontrolled creation of DIY weapons.
The homemade firearms is not a new concept, but 3D printing could facilitate the process and improve its quality. In 2013 an Israeli reporter, to demonstrate how dangerous this problem can be, created and tested a firearm, then entered the Israeli parliament by passing the metal detectors without problems and arriving to secretly point the weapon directly at the premier without that no one would notice.
It’s clear that there are problems to be solved, situations to be regulated and there’s a long way to go before 3D printing completely replaces the current mass production, but in a few years everything will change. This technology will bring us into the fourth industrial revolution and we are just at the beginning.
One thing is certain, I can’t wait to find out what news it will bring. What do you think about it? What would you like to print having the opportunity? Let me know in the comments and if you liked the article!
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