3D Printing & The Fourth Industrial Revolution
3D Printing And 3D Printer Revolution
While the fourth Industrial Revolution (TIR) economy allows millions of people to produce their own virtual information and energy, a new digital manufacturing revolution now opens up the possibility of following suit in the production of durable goods. In the new era, everyone can potentially be their own manufacturer as well as their own internet site and power company. The process is called 3D printing.
3-D Printers run off a three dimensional product using computer aided design. Software directs the 3-D printer to build successive layers of the product using powder, molten plastic, or metals to create the material scaffolding. The 3-D printer can produce multiple copies just like a photocopy machine. All sorts of goods, from jewelry to mobile phones, auto and aircraft parts, medical implants, and batteries are being “printed out” in what is being termed “additive manufacturing,” distinguishing it from the “subtractive manufacturing,” which involves cutting down and pairing off materials and then attaching them together. 3-D entrepreneurs are particularly bullish about additive manufacturing, because the process requires as little as 10 percent of the raw material expended in traditional manufacturing and uses less energy than conventional factory production, thus greatly reducing the cost.
The energy saved at every step of the digital manufacturing process, from reduction in materials used, to less energy expended in making the product, when applied across the global economy, adds up to a qualitative increase in energy efficiency beyond anything imaginable in the First and Second Industrial Revolutions.
The democratization of manufacturing is being accompanied by the tumbling costs of marketing. Because of the centralized nature of the communication technologies of the first and second industrial revolutions—newspapers, magazines, radio, and television—marketing costs were high and favored giant firms who could afford to devote substantial funds to market their products and services. The internet has transformed marketing from a significant expense to a negligible cost, allowing start ups and small and medium size enterprises to market their goods and services on internet sites that stretch over virtual space, enabling them to compete and even out compete many of the giant business enterprises of the 21st century.
As the new 3-D technology becomes more widespread, on site, just in time customized manufacturing of products will also reduce logistics costs with the possibility of huge energy savings. The cost of transporting products will plummet in the coming decades because an increasing array of goods will be produced locally in thousands of micro-manufacturing plants and transported regionally by trucks powered by green electricity and hydrogen generated on site.
The lateral scaling of the Third Industrial Revolution allows small and medium size enterprises to flourish. Still, global companies will not disappear. Rather, they will increasingly metamorphose from primary producers and distributors to aggregators. In the new economic era, their role will be to coordinate and manage the multiple networks that move commerce and trade across the value chain.
Rifkin's vision is already gaining traction in the international community. The European Union Parliament has issued a formal declaration calling for its implementation, and other nations in Asia, Africa, and the Americas, are quickly preparing their own initiatives for transitioning into the new economic paradigm