3-D Printing Will Disrupt the World in Ways We Can Barely Imagine

“Yet the greatest strategic impact of additive manufacturing may not occur on the battlefield, but rather in the mundane manufacturing of clothing, shoes, appliances, phones, medical devices, and much more. In short, localized distributed manufacturing will become the norm. Not only will products be cheaper, but they will also be extremely customizable, rendering traditional manufacturing able to compete in only a few areas. And since 3-D printing technology is so cheap, it will also be incredibly widespread — Cambodia, for instance, already has a 3-D print shop.

3-D printing is also attractive because it drastically reduces the costs of producing complex items. Using traditional ‘subtractive’ manufacturing — the norm in manufacturing today — complexity dramatically increases costs as a result of the need for highly skilled labor to assemble complex forms from a series of parts. By contrast, additive manufacturing produces even highly complex parts as a single unit. For example, General Electric is using 3-D-printed fuel nozzles in its new LEAP series of jet engines. Normally consisting of up to 20 finely machined and carefully assembled parts, the 3-D-printed nozzle is a single part that boasts improved performance over the assembled nozzles.

3-D printing, married with artificial intelligence and robots, will disrupt manufacturing globally. It will radically alter who makes what where. Rather than subcontracting the production of components to Southeast Asia, shipping those components to China for assembly, and finally shipping them to consumers, many manufacturers will produce locally and switch to just-in-time production schedules. This shift will eliminate shipping and inventory costs as well deal with the increasingly costly problem of intellectual property theft. Local production will result in major reductions in the globalization of manufacturing and thus change the economic element of the global strategic environment. As manufacturing returns to rich countries, it will deprive the nations of Southeast Asia of the opportunity to pursue export-based growth. Perhaps the greatest threat is to Chinese growth. Even as its growth settles to a new, lower, normal, China struggles to shift from an export-based economy to a consumption-based one. If China cannot make the shift before the additive manufacturing results in localized manufacturing, it will suffer major negative impacts on growth. Given the Chinese Communist Party’s primary claim to legitimacy is economic growth, it may face increasing internal instability.

This convergence of 3-D printing, artificial intelligence, and robotics will accelerate the current shift of wealth from labor to capital. It will allow much greater productivity per unit of both capital and labor, but dramatically reduce the number of people required. Those who own capital and can execute their business models with fewer skilled laborers will profit greatly from this shift in manufacturing techniques. The United States will not be immune to this trend…”

(Via.) War on the Rocks: <— Read more here

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