It seems a bold or even ridiculous statement that 3D printing will revive American manufacturing but this statement has come from Forbes magazine so it is worth paying attention. The magazine says that as soon as 2015 through to 2025 3D printing could be the transformative technology. If this is the case local and national governments around the world should sit up and take notice and get ahead of the competition with 3D printing services and America it seems already has with Europe also ahead of the curve with 3D printing services technology. The key factor for America and Europe so far has been top universities with major, often collaborative, research programs.
But what is there going to be to keep America’s advantage, will it not fade as Chinese and other Far Eastern countries do 3D printing services more cheaply using their massive workforce of cheap labor and endless supply of raw materials? The Raw materials will still be important but with 3D printing services the emphasis isn’t on mass producing it is about creativity and will play on the skills that American society has in abundance. Currently they are graphic designers and website designers in a couple of years the same skill sets will see educated Americans become product designers many of them freelance or setting up their own companies with little concern about which 3D printing service a customer uses.
3D printing could take China and the Far East’s advantages in manufacturing disappear just as much as it hands America the advantage. The actual 3D printing service can be done from anywhere using blueprints produced anywhere else. Though currently many 3D printers print parts that are then assembled there are now printers who print fully formed products with moving parts printed in place and color added during the process, this includes creating electronics and even circuit boards. A massive workforce doing repetitive tasks will no longer be needed so China will have no cost advantage. The best place to produce in fact will be wherever people will be consuming products in order to save on transport costs. Quite how locally 3D printing services are done remains to be seen but a 3D printer doesn’t have to produce only certain products it will be able to produce anything so you may have 3D printing companies becoming as prolific as 2D printing companies currently are. Some 3D printing services may specialize in large format, higher quality raw materials or more out of the ordinary materials but as with 2D printing now you will generally go to who is closet or rather send them the electronic files and arrange when your printing will be ready for collection. Then of course there is printing in your own home for small items, maybe based on your own designs. Designs will be what you buy often rather than a product if 3D printing can really be as cheap as mass production techniques, which many experts say it may be. So it will be the designers of products, often bespoke products, who make money but as the article in Forbes points out it will be software companies that really become rich from this technology, in many ways 3D printing and design will not differ very much from 2D printing and design.