In the late 1980s, 3D Systems began using sheets upon sheets of stereolithographs, UV sensitive paper, to create the first 3-D-printed images. Since then, the technology has made strides that are changing the face of manufacturing. The changes are so great that new markets are being developed that did not exist a decade ago.
The disruptive nature of additive technology
In 1995, economist Clay Christensen introduced the theory of disruptive innovation which shows that some technologies, services or processes are so new to an industry that they create their own market, sometime supplanting the old market.
Disruptive innovation does not look at single product competition, but instead focuses on the consumer’s acceptance of the new technology in the market. Additive manufacturing technology has found its way onto the list that includes automobiles, computers and cellphones.
Some of the most affected markets are small business manufacturing and entrepreneurial thought leadership. In short, additive manufacturing has opened opportunities for small businesses to compete with large companies for new markets.
Impact on economy
Additive manufacturing is currently considered to be incrementally disruptive primarily because it has not fully developed its market. This is one of the problems with the theory. Disruptive innovations can only be identified in hindsight, after they have created the new market.
It seems clear that 3-D printing still has a long way to go before the market is complete. There are several factors when looking at supply-demand theories, including customer acceptance, resource availability and market penetration. The most understandable and widely-accepted is cash movement.
In manufacturing, 3-D printing is just beginning to find its marketplace. Seal manufacturer Apple Rubber is one of the first to embrace the technology, allowing customers the ability to remotely 3-D print prototypes and small batch orders. This lets small businesses play with the same footing as large manufacturers.
3-D printing and the IoT
This year, Google introduced Google Home. This device lets users control their houses and environment using Google’s state of the art voice recognition and search algorithms. It acts as a hub between all of the devices in your life and the wealth of information on the internet.
This web of internet connected devices is called the Internet of Things (IoT) and may have a huge influence on the entrepreneurial use of 3-D printing. Scientists are looking at additive manufacturing over the IoT as an evolutionary step in human development.
Whether you look at it like a replicator from the original Star Trek series or as a way for thought leaders to put their idea into practice on a daily basis, 3-D printing’s ability to use new and even organic material to design products means that we will be able to move from idea to market immediately.
Special areas In 3-D printing
Of course, since we do not know where 3-D innovative technology will end, it is impossible to say exactly what the future will hold. One thing that we can expect is that the development of new materials will change the uses of additive manufacturing.
Non-Newtonian fluids are one place that researchers are playing with. These materials will change from solid to liquid and back, depending on the forces applied.
Lay on a non-Newtonian fluid and you will sink, but walk hard and you will stay afloat. These fluids will let us make products that have a greater range of ability, depending on the environment.