Design + Cloud + 3D Printing
Got an idea for a new gadget or do you need a unique part? Just reach out to Staples and they will print out the physical object and ship it directly to your home or office. Are you an entrepreneur or small business and think you have a design for jewelry, a part, or even a home good that lots of folks would want? Shapeways will turn your good ideas into reality and help you market them.
The drumbeat to go digital or perish seems never ending. But we live in a physical world where we interact with things made from atoms. Sure, we also do a lot of work in the digital realm but how do we transform those bits and bytes into real things we can use. The answer is 3D Printing or Additive Manufacturing (so called because objects are built up from material rather than machined away as in traditional subtractive manufacturing).
3D Printing has been around since the 1980’s and has matured to being able to produced objects from all kinds of materials. Its appeal is undeniable with its ability to reduce development costs and time to market. Until the last few years, the approach was to have Computer Aided Design (CAD) software, workstations to run the software and the 3D printer all on-site. For any kind of work beyond simple prototypes with weaker materials, this is an expensive proposition.
Enter the cloud. Rather than have individual design and production tools located at every premise – or even in your home – they are clustered in logically distributed production locations that are accessed in the cloud. Welcome to Manufacturing as a Service (MaaS). Just as the cloud has enabled anyone to be a retailer (Amazon and eBay) or an hotelier (Airbnb) by enabling an “as-a-Service” approach, now it is manufacturing’s turn.
New business models are rapidly emerging from this sudden abundance of manufacturing capability. We have already seen how individuals and SMBs are empowered to tackle opportunities that would ordinarily be way beyond their financial wherewithal.
Logistics is being transformed from shipping items from where they are made to making them to where they are needed. UPS has read the tea leaves and is going big by investing in a MaaS company and having them locate in their distribution centers and selected stores throughout the U.S. with expansion into Europe and Asia planned.
What can be printed out in 3D also seems to have no limit. The fashion industry is in the crosshairs. Even whole houses can be 3D printed. Are you hungry for dessert? How about a 3D printed sugary, chocolate rose? Yes, food can be 3D printed. Not too far in the future, we will be bioprinting organs, bones, skin and more.
Imagine these capabilities widely and reasonably priced available through the cloud. We could be looking at unique offerings designed for the market of one; new jobs from new businesses with new business models, and even better health.
By John Pientka