3D Printing: Shifting the Balance of Power
5 disruptions that can change global economy and society
Recently, I took a Coursera course on marketing in a digital world as a part of my CPD plan. Many ideas and start-ups presented there were completely new to me and looked fascinating.
The course also covered the role of 3D printing in disrupting current marketing models, as 3D printers are a good example of a new digital marketing tool.
Companies like Apple, Netflix, Google create both new products and new business models. Their disruptive innovation is radically changing traditional business practices. New emerging digital tools also have tremendous implications the way products are distributed and placed into the market.
Firm-centered approach to marketing is starting to break down due to the rise of smartphones, online technologies, and 3D printing. In this new digital marketing environment, we are moving from firm-created products and brands to co-created products and brands.
Blurring the dividing line between the physical and the digital, 3D printing, also called additive manufacturing, has been around for over 30 years. However, in the last five years both the size of the printers as well as their cost have dramatically shrunk. As a result, the technology is rapidly spreading and becoming democratized and available to consumers.
A wide variety of materials that can be 3D printed includes plastics, metals, ceramics, food, and even glass, depending on the printer type and technology. Experts say you can 3D print almost any hard material that can be softened or any soft material that can be hardened.
3D printing is a way to a new industrial revolution and dramatic changes in the economy. It may spread over the entire value chain on a global scale, from operation, logistics, manufacturing to marketing, sales, and after-services. Some of you may already own or actually use 3D printed products without knowing it.
I decided to summarize things I love most about 3D printing, one of my main translation specialties. Below is a short description of five transformations you should begin preparing for. 3D printing is going to change your life, too.
1 New manufacturing strategies
As of 2011, the direct manufacture of finished products represented only about 25 percent of the additive manufacturing market. 3D printers were used mainly for prototyping. Now industries are moving from prototyping to the actual printing of final finished products.
With current 35 percent annual growth rate, the market of additive manufacturing and rapid prototyping is one the manufacturing industry’s fastest-growing segments. 3D printing facilitates new product solutions, which would be inconceivable with conventional methods.
Today the aerospace industry (12.0% of global AMRP market), the automotive industry (19.5%), medical/dental technology (15.1%), and other sectors focus strategically on 3D printing as the manufacturing strategy of the future and an embodiment of “Industry 4.0” approach.
Airbus A350 is flying with 3D printed parts. GE has already opened a mass additive manufacturing facility to produce the fuel nozzles for LEAP jet engines. American Local Motors best known for its $100,000 off-road Rally Fighter crowdsourced vehicle recently introduced the world’s first 3D printed car. German Mapal offers a QTD-series insert drills manufactured using additive laser melting.
2 New designs and mass customization
3D printing is changing the way things are developed and designed. This paradigm shift means that lightweight designs, new integrated functions or bionic structural elements will become a crucial part of engineering.
Additive solutions offer diverse potential, which you cannot achieve (at least satisfactorily) with conventional machining strategies. Two directions are possible here. One is to redesign existing products, which have been built conventionally until now. The second is to manufacture new products developed specifically for the opportunities that 3D printing offers as early as the design phase.
B2C manufacturers and retailers are beginning to realize the potential of 3D printing. Nike is now 3D printing its football shoes. Designers say 3D printing going to change the world of fashion in a way similar to how Lycra entered the fashion industry in the ’80s, radically evolving how clothes were made and how garments behave.
With 3D printing, consumers can customize their designs. Once you start thinking digital products rather than physical ones, new possibilities emerge. Unlike conventional goods that are difficult and expensive to customize, digital products are much cheaper and easier to change. Digitization of goods opens a way to satisfy a broader range of customer preferences.
3 New distribution models and shifted profits
3D printers can alter distribution models just as the Internet has altered music, text, and video consumption. Just like iTunes replaced physical music stores, the 3D printer has the potential to disrupt logistics and sells of physical goods.
All 3D printed objects start with a digital model. And once an object is digital, it can be easily stored, transported, and modified. Decentralized production networks mean new business models and regional strategies are possible. The company can post digital files of its products or parts of its products on its website for direct downloading (like Nokia tried) or posting these files on a digital 3D printing retailer.
To be able to print locally will save shipping costs and shipping time. For some industries, that means huge competitive advantages. Spare parts can be manufactured on demand at decentralized locations. If a component fails, it will be reproduced directly on-site.
Pioneers of additive manufacturing underline the possibility to return the value created by production from low-wage countries to traditional development and industrial locations in Europe or the USA.
4 Medical innovations and bioprinting
3D printing is making rapid progress in the medical and dental fields. Today, most hearing aids and dental implants are 3D printed in the US. 3D printing has enabled the creation of high-dose pills: you can customize and control the speed and strength of delivered dosage reliably.
Companies are inventing new business models, opening digital print centers for additive dental prostheses. Compared to traditional dental laboratories, digital manufacturing is extremely cost-efficient (at least half the price) and offer enormous benefits in terms of quality. 3D printing is also being used to create affordable prosthetics, light and durable.
Bone reconstruction technologies with the help of three-dimensional structures are being developed. Such structures are open for the tuning of chemical and mechanical properties while copying the outer form of the required bone.
A number of startups are actually exploring 3D printing as a way to create human skin and organs. We are not so close to a mass replacement of body parts yet, but a company called Organovo is already 3D printing liver and kidney tissues.
5 Power of making democratized with 3D printing
During the course, some academic insights about the topic of 3D printing were mentioned. Researchers at Michigan Tech University conducted an interesting experiment published in Metronics journal in 2013. In order to determine how much money 3D printing could save, they printed common household objects instead of buying them.
They downloaded twenty digital designs from thingiverse.com and printed them on a low-cost desktop 3D printer: an iPhone doc, a showerhead, a paper towel holder, etc. The printing cost in terms of both energy and materials was less than $20. In comparison, it would have cost them at least $300 to buy them from a store.
The study at the University of Illinois showed a stark difference between groups making common 3D printed objects and buying them from the shop. Students who printed objects exhibited higher levels of loyalty, they felt a closer connection with these objects and were willing to pay almost 50% more for them.
Desktop 3D printers are going to democratize the power of making and to give consumers more control over the things they consume.