Intelligent Manufacturing Part 5: 3-D Printing

Intelligent Manufacturing: 3-D Printing

The Factories of the Future-Already Operational and Making a Difference
There isn’t a technology out there that has had more buildup and more hype than 3d printing. The reality is that quite likely three dimensional printing is all that the hype says it is and quite likely more. 3 Dimensional printing has the ability, over time, to change the way that we accomplish things and to make lives easier.
3 Dimensional Printing-an Overview

Three-dimensional printing is by no means new to us. It’s not yet commonplace, but it’s been working for us for years and has changed the way that we do some things already. For about thirty years, 3 dimensional printing has been used by engineers who used it to create fast prototypes of things that they were building. It was, and to some extent remains cost prohibitive for the average person.

Not only is 3 D printing innovative, but it has the capacity to change how we accomplish medicine and even marketing.

What is 3D printing?
From a purely technical standpoint, three dimensional printing is a printer that can make literally any object. It creates those objects out of plastic, composites, carbon fiber or even metal. They’ve been in use for many years but are not yet low cost enough to be common place. That’s about to change.
The Future of Smart Machines like 3 D Printers
Today three dimensional printers are going well into the range where the average consumer may be able to afford them. Factories and other places are already using them. Technology has changed and advanced to the point where 3D printers are becoming more and more affordable. The technology has the capacity to change the way that we do things from the creation and design of automobile parts down to making your own jewelry at home. The expectation is that pricing will continue to drop, putting 3D printers well within the realm of affordability for everyone and allowing them to change the way that they do things at home and in the office.

The Present Day Use of 3D Printing

3D printing is becoming very popular with small business owners because of the time and labor that it can save them. It isn’t only the small businesses who are reaping big dividends from 3 D printing however. Huge companies like General Electric and even aircraft companies such as Boeing are gaining steam in using 3D printers and finding big benefits from them. The two companies named here are finding that the 3D printers have the capacity to change their manufacturing methods and to help them to build their products. These companies are using 3D printers to help them to make parts for jet aircraft and for airplanes as a whole. In addition to Boeing & GE we have seen Amazon express interest and even NASA for use on the ISS.

The need and desire for a 3D printer is becoming so rampant in the general public that crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter are finding that they are a top growing category for people trying to raise money. They are also, coincidentally one of the categories that reap the most funding.
While not yet in the “anyone can afford one” realm, 3D printers are rapidly dropping in pricing and their availability is rising. You can now find them in places like Amazon and even in stores such as Home Depot. They have become a real fixture in nearly every new startup office and are a real godsend for new companies in manufacturing.

There is, according to ZDNet, a plethora of 3D printers available to the general public for under $100K. Allied Market Research says that the 3D printer market will hit 8 and a half billion by the year 2020. This is not small time, and the world is finding that 3D printers are more mainstream currently than anyone expected them to be by this time. Consumer and manufacturing markets are embracing what 3D printing can do for them and how it can change what they need to accomplish.
The expectation is that the small hurdles that these printers need to overcome to become even more commonplace, such as high energy use and the unstable material problems will be overcome fairly soon and make 3D printers even more useful to us in areas such as manufacturing, medicine and engineering.

James Kemper is the president of W. H. Meanor & Associates, an executive placement & training company specializing in engineering & manufacturing careers. He can be reached at: or 704-372-7640 #102 or visit at

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