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3D Printing and its Disruptive Abilities

Guest Contributor on Mar 14, 2017 10:30:00 AM

Prime Advantage has invited industry experts to share insights on achieving manufacturing and business success. In this post, Matthew Murray of Notable discusses the impact 3D modelling may exert on the manufacturing industry.

The term “disruptive” simply means “to change the normal way of doing something, interrupt the normal progress of something, or to turn order into disorder.” So what makes a process or an invention disruptive?

For something to be termed “disruptive,” it must have the ability to bring disorder, change the normal way of doing things, or interrupt society’s normal progress, as the finding of iron eons ago had the ability to do. The process known as additive manufacturing - otherwise called 3D printing – definitely falls into this elite category.

031417.jpegSince its inception in the 80’s, the additive manufacturing process has continued to grow and today 3D printing is currently being used in every sphere of our industrial life. Industries with wide usage include: healthcare, biomedical, architecture and engineering industries. Widespread use is mainly due to the advent of domestic 3D printers. Home 3D printers have demonstrated to our collective awareness awe-inspiring design breakthroughs that can be accomplished using the 3D printer. Below are some notable achievements made with 3D printing.

Changing the Normal Way of Things

Sometime in 2015, the world woke up to the news about a 10-year-old boy in Delaware, Colin Consavage, who was born with his left hand in a fist. Colin printed himself a functional prosthetic arm with the aid of 3D printers in his local library. Colin’s creativity, alongside other breakthroughs such as the successful manufacturing and implant of 3D printed human organs by Wake Forrest Baptist Medical Centre, has led to the creation of enterprises solely focused on developing human organs and prosthetic limbs, which will be available on demand in the near future.

According to Dr. Anthony Atala of the Wake Forrest Centre, the next 15 years will be an exciting time in health care as 3D printing techniques will have advanced to an extent were patients in need of organs no longer have to be on donor lists but can simply get matching organs ‘bioprinted’ using images from MRI and CT scans as yardsticks, thereby revolutionizing the biomedical industry. Here, additive manufacturing will completely change the normal way of receiving human organs by introducing a quicker and more efficient method, underlining its disruptive nature.

Interrupting Normal Progress

In March 2015, the Chinese construction company WinSun—an architectural and construction firm that offers BIM services, architectural, and construction services to the public— made the news for claiming to build 10 houses in 24 hours. The uproar caused by this absurd undocumented claim, led to WinSun having to further demonstrate the efficacy of its construction method by publicly building a five story, 11,840 square foot villa at Suzhou Industrial Park in a month.

More importantly, the construction technique used was additive manufacturing and it took just eight people and a budget of $161,000 to complete the project. Compared to the figures of 30 construction workers, 90 working days, and approximately $300,000 in expenditure, normal construction processes would have gulped in building this villa, definitely shedding some light on just how disruptive 3D printing can be. As expected, more construction start-ups have introduced 3D printing into their construction processes, thereby interrupting the normal progress of things by speeding up projects and saving overhead costs.

The first 3D printed gun was fired in 2013, officially ushering in new chapters to the gun control debate and the possibility of just about anyone manufacturing firearms in the basement of their homes. Since that first game changing shot of the ‘Liberator’, gun makers have joined the debate on the ethics of weapons manufacturing and how it could negatively impact the domestic lives of humans, as well as the future.

The ethical questions on manufacturing guns through 3D printing techniques are valid ones due to the fact that just about anyone—including criminals and unstable individuals—who own a $500 3D printer can easily build a gun from the comfort of their homes. But this is exactly what it means for a technology to be termed “disruptive,” i.e. when its potential for good is balanced out by its potential to create disorder.

3D printing is here to stay and these case studies alongside other progresses currently occurring in the world of additive manufacturing are clear indicators that mankind is definitely marching towards a new industrial age, where everyone can be responsible for manufacturing what they wear, use, or even eat. Welcome to the age of additive manufacturing or better still, welcome to the “Printing Age.”

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Topics: Manufacturing, Industry News

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