/3D printing: a New Industrial Revolution
3D printing

3D printing: a New Industrial Revolution

Some time ago a famous author wrote that everything the mind can conceive can also be realized.

This, today, could easily be the official spot of 3D printing , a technology that is finally spreading and that promises a new industrial revolution . So even for good new entrepreneurs, new business scenarios are opening up on the horizon!  

What is 3D printing?

3D printing, better known in the world as “3D printing”, is the process of creating three-dimensional objects from digital files using a “printer of materials” (materials printer) in ways similar to printing images on paper (2d print).

From the scientific point of view, the product is the result of the perfect overlapping of layers of condensed polymers of various kinds that aggregate to form real solid matter. In simple terms, we obtain the realization of the model previously realized on the computer in respect of the three dimensions of the real world.

The materials produced can be of different nature, also based on the production standards with which they are made. In fact, the latter are the basis of the versatility of 3D printing and have now reached practically all industrial sectors .

If computers and the Internet had allowed “dematerialization” (from atoms to bits), 3D printers will allow “materialization” (from bits to atoms) with consequences of great economic, social and political importance.

How does a 3d printer work?

The common production processes, both artisan and industrial, are subtractive (the finished product is made by refining a raw material). 3D printing, on the other hand, is based on addictive making or on the creation of objects by superimposing polymers of various kinds.

Today 3d printers are mainly used to produce prototypes of new objects, which will then be built using conventional methods.

Current and future uses of addictive making!

3D printing was initially used in the field of prototyping , a sector in which the creation of miniatures for projects and models was subject to manual ability.

The manipulation of matter according to arbitrarily chosen forms is giving new contributions and opening new scenarios in virtually every sector.

3D printing is already a reality in the medical and pharmaceutical industry, in the military, in the automotive and in the production of consumer goods.

Among all the 3D printer is allowing us to make great progress in the biomedical sector . In fact, prostheses of all kinds have been made and even the production of human organs is beginning to be tested, using a liquid containing stem cells.

Opportunities and Effects of 3d printing

The following is an overview of the main opportunities and consequences that the technology of addictive making is bringing with it:

1. Growth of DIY and the spirit of sharing

More and more people are provided with software tools for the design of new products, which can be made directly at home with their own 3D printer or in the growing Fablab (specialized production centers)

These software (mostly open source) allow you to create an electronic file that summarizes the physical characteristics of the object . The file can then be modified at will and then used to print the updated version of the original object.

In essence, personalization is pushing itself to the highest levels and this can only lead to a wider diffusion of the open source model and of the spirit of collaboration and sharing that distinguishes it. Crowdsourcing will therefore be increasingly widespread , with the exposure on the web not only of its own knowledge but of its own “works”.

Positive signs are coming in this direction, already today many “makers” insert and share their projects for free in repositories made available to all, an emblematic case is Thingiverse . 
All this is creating a strong movement of enthusiasts / amateurs, a new hobby and new businesses such as DIY!

2. Changes in design and production systems

The diffusion of 3d printing technology will significantly reduce production costs , leaving all the value in the idea , designand product design . Production will become a sort of commodity.

Design and design will therefore be the main levers on which a company will be able to stand to succeed. 
The current business and distribution models will obviously undergo considerable changes.

3. New economic and geopolitical balances

The change in production processes will have a strong impact also at the level of political economy. Today states like China are growing a lot, because they are the factory of the world and produce most of the products on the market (from smartphones to toys).

But many analysts predict that, in the medium term, the production costs between East and West will be comparable thanks to new production technologies of 3D printing and robotics. This will naturally lead to social evolutions both in the East and the West.

The new technologies will in all likelihood bring manufacturing activities back to a local and not a global dimension, since shipping and distribution costs will be more important than production ones.

Conclusions

Perhaps talking about a new industrial revolution could be risky, but the conditions are all there.

Business opportunities are enormous and the implications of the spread of new technology are endless.

Italy could also benefit from it, perhaps more than any other country thanks to its artisan vocation. Our artisans are already digitizing and if politics also plays its part (which is less likely), our country could continue to perpetuate its vocation.