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Manufacturing Break-though, Based on 3D 'Printing,' is About to Change the World

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Richard Clark       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink

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(Article changed on November 29, 2012 at 11:51)


According to several well-known periodicals within the mainstream media, many experts now believe a revolutionary new jaw-dropping 3D printer technology could trigger the rebirth of U.S. manufacturing and put an end to the "Made in China" era.   There are three cutting-edge American companies at the forefront of this revolutionary technology.    The New York Times says, "3D Printing is Spurring a Manufacturing Revolution." 

 "Printed" cars will, in a sense, soon be rolling off the printers.   Yes, I said "printers."   Using a new kind of printer, a little-known Minnesota company has in fact "printed" an entire car.   Not all at once of course, but piece by piece.   The car gets 200 MPG, goes 70 mph, and is built to last for 30 years.   All the exterior components of the car -- including the windows -- were created using a new kind of 3D printer.  

This new technology promises to revitalize U.S. manufacturing by eliminating the cheap labor advantage of places like China and Mexico.   The manufacturing process is like clicking the print button on a computer and sending a document to an inkjet printer.   The difference is that the "ink" in a 3D printer is a material, of various kinds, that is deposited, in many repeated layers -- until a solid object emerges.   Such machines can now print in plastic, metal, glass, even concrete.  

This is one of those rare transformational technologies -- like the Internet or the printing press -- that quite probably will change the way we live, work, and play.  

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According to The Market Oracle, this is the 21st century's "laser printer" -- with the power to forever alter industries in the same manner that desktop publishing changed the print industry during the 1980s.   The list of possible uses for this transformational breakthrough is already long -- and growing.   Business Insider calls it "The next trillion-dollar industry."

In The Economist there was recently a story about a Ph.D. student at MIT named Peter Schmitt, who 3D-printed all the parts of a grandfather clock, which he then assembled to make a perfectly working copy of the original.   According to Popular Mechanics, Jay Leno uses a 3D printer to make custom hard-to-find parts, from scratch, for his collection of classic cars.   The New York Times reports that a California startup is building houses with its 3D printer.   According to the Times, the company's "printer,' which fits on a tractor trailer, uses patterns delivered by computer, then squirts out repeated layers of special concrete, to gradually form entire walls that form the outer shell of the house, right up to where the roof will be added.

Even more remarkable, a small biotech company is exploring the possibility of using 3D printing to create entire human organs.   The printing device would lay down layers of living cells that could be molded into a bladder, kidney, or heart.

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The fact is, this 3D printing breakthrough is so massive it could well trigger the downfall of the "Made in China" era.  

New research by The Boston Consulting Group found that "Mass production within the US could be far cheaper than producing and shipping products from overseas.   3D printing will bring about the emergence of a new "Made in America" era by revitalizing America's faltering manufacturing industry, thereby sending Chinese workers packing, as American companies set up their own "portable factories.'"

But this groundbreaking manufacturing technology isn't just limited to big corporations or university research departments with deep pockets.    In fact, the little-known Minnesota company that "printed" the car mentioned earlier has recently released a home version of the 3D printer for under $1,300.   This machine allows every one of us to be a designer, inventor, factory owner -- and maybe even millionaire -- inspiring grand visions of a future where everyone prints out their own children's toys, replacement car parts, household objects, or musical instruments.   And as prices continue to drop, the 3D printer could soon be as common as a screwdriver in Henry Homeowner's garage...

The Economist says, "Three-dimensional printing may have as profound an impact on the world as the coming of the factory did.   Just as nobody could have predicted the impact of the stem engine in 1750, or the printing press in 1450, or the transistor in 1950, . . it is impossible to fully foresee the long-term impact of 3D printing.   But the technology is coming, and it is likely to disrupt every field it touches."

Wired Magazine agrees:   "This new printing technology could trigger "the next industrial revolution.'"


This article consists of edited excerpts from a report emailed to subscribers by Nick Hodge, managing director of Energy&Capital.

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Several years after receiving my M.A. in social science (interdisciplinary studies) I was an instructor at S.F. State University for a year, but then went back to designing automated machinery, and then tech writing, in Silicon Valley. I've (more...)

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