Beyond 3D printing – it’s more than a Game of Drones: Smarter is Coming
3D/4D printing and self-assembly materials trigger at the same time fear and skepticism: fear that masses of workers in the manufacturing industries will find themselves structurally redundant, skepticism that complex systems can ever be manufactured using these emerging technologies. Both this fear and this skepticism are misplaced, because they are based on the faulty assumption that new manufacturing/assembly technologies will replace old ones like-for-like.
I wrote a few years ago that we should not expect electric cars to substitute internal combustion engine cars like-for-like, but that the electric mobility would eventually come to prominence by combining state-of-the-art electric technology with a different business model and consumer experience. The same is true of manufacturing and assembly.
I can imagine a world where the new value chain will comprise:
– Designers, who currently work at consumer goods manufacturers, but in future will work at consumer goods designers with no manufacuring capabilities;
– 3D automated workshops located in cities, close to the customer base;
– A delivery workforce that will bring the parts from the workshop to the consumer’s home;
– An increasingly skilled assembly workforce that will provide consumers with the assembly service.
From designer, through assembler to deliverer, the economy will offer a range of new jobs from highly qualified to rather unqualified.
As a consumer, you will choose your design online, purchase and download the code. You will then book online a manufacuturing slot at the workshop and send them the code. Someone will then deliver the parts to your door. Finally, in a booming sharing economy, you will find someone in your local communities who is skilled in the art of assembling those parts (might not be the same person to assemble a fridge, a sofa or a home-cinema). While the assembler does the job, you might find yourself cooking dinner, not just for yourself but also for the assembler who would have purchased this service of yours either in advance or on the spot. You may find yourself short of ingredients, but service providers such as La Tournée will have them delivered from your local foodstore by the social-economy version of the old milkman.
If you find the above unimaginative, please share your vision by commenting on this post. If you find the above too imaginative, brace yourself: it is more than a Game of Drones, Smarter is Coming!