Future of Manufacturing
3D Printing Is THE Connector That Will Both Tie Today’s Youth To The Art of Making Things Again And Provide Job Opportunities For Everyone.
3D Printers The Only Way To Connect Everyone To Making Things Again.
From The Wright Brothers To Ion Engines In Four Years
3D Printing or Additive Manufacturing has innovated itself faster than other technology in the history of the world. While the initial concept of using Stereolithography and creating objects in resin began in 1985, it wasn’t until 2010 when a number of open source entrepreneurs created the codes for taking a 3D object created in Cad or Auto Cad and developing the Firmware for a device called the RepRap printer the ability to use a solid plastic filament to make an object by heating it up in an extruder and adding one layer upon the other on a build platform.
In 2011 a number of companies were formed that sold 3D Printers that could create objects in PLA, ABS and Hips. Many of these 3D Printers were DIY kits (Do It Yourself) and they used standard off the shelf components. In 5 years the 3D Printing industry has innovated itself no fewer than 10 times creating 3D Printers that are now used in every industry in the world. You can now print in over 70 different materials and that list is growing daily and the printers can make objects that cannot be made on any other existing machinery.
3D Printing or Additive Manufacturing is now mainstream. Printers are being used in every aspect of product development from medical, aerospace, automotive, military, jewelry, clothing, construction, toys to food. 3D Printing will touch everyone’s life in some way by the end of 2017.
3D Printing Is The Best Way To Connect Today’s Youth To Making Things Again
Children as young as four years of age can now operate a smart phone, tablet or computer. Their ability to engage with technology at an early age is nothing short of amazing. Over the past two years EIC has worked with 100 children ages 8 to 12 at the EIC 3D Mini Camps held over the summer months. We use Tinkercad for creating 3D objects and the software is easy for the students to learn. If you understand their ability to play video games and maneuver through sophisticated social media technology you can understand how easy it is for them to quickly catch onto the art of 3D modeling.
If we truly want to bring the art of making things again back to the United States, then 3D Printing/Additive Manufacturing will be the key. The traditional methods of making things include machining processes, CNC, injection molding, welding and composite fabrication. Trying to connect the under 25 crowd to consider working in these industries and using these tools is almost impossible. In addition, most parents don’t see manufacturing in their children’s future. Yet, we talk about bringing back manufacturing like it will happen all by itself.
Since 3D Printing is still considered to be a cool technology and students can easily learn how to make something with a printer, this technology is the only gateway to getting them to consider manufacturing ( probably Additive ) for their career. They can see the 3D Printer in their future; they can’t see themselves operating a CNC machine.
Teaching 3D Printing: Who and where?
One of the challenges with 3D Printing and 3D Modeling is the availability of access to the equipment and more importantly finding instructors or teachers with the experience to effectively instruct students on both how to create 3 dimensional models and how to use the 3D Printers.
The Englewood Incubation Center started this process in 2012 and very quickly learned that this technology is mostly bottom-up. Meaning more younger students knew how to use 3D Modeling software than the teachers. We started working with more students and teachers in our facility to bring them up to speed on the use of simple 3D Modeling software like Tinkercad and Skecthup.
As we placed more 3D Printers in more schools we found that only a small portion of the student body had access to the equipment and unless the school offered a 3D Printing Club after school hours many students were left out of the picture.
Placing 3D printers in Libraries was the next step and our first installation was in the North Port Library. The Charlotte County Library system has purchased three 3D Printers and we will be installing them starting in December of 2016. Putting 3D Printers in Libraries is a great start as it allows access to this technology to anyone in the community. Here again, the challenge is in finding the right people in the Library that can be trained to instruct individuals how to create objects and use the printers.
Manufacturing ( Additive ) In Your Bedroom
Today anyone can create models, working parts, replacement parts, prototypes, one of a kind objects, promotional items and make them from one of 70 different materials now available for FDM style 3D Printers. The ability to monetize this technology is now a reality. For less than $3,500.00 you can operate a small manufacturing business in a space no bigger than the counter top in your kitchen. There are new resin based DLP and CLIP technology printers that can print down to 25 microns and make jewelry and parts that cannot be machined.
One of the main advantages of using this technology is that it doesn’t require an MIT degree or any college training for that matter. The biggest challenge is learning how to use the 3D Modeling software. For students, this learning curve is short, for adults a little bit longer.
For individuals who work two part-time jobs or mothers who have to stay home to raise their families or Veterans who have lost the use of a limb or some other disability, this is a perfect option to provide a real money making opportunity without leaving home.
Time To Step Up To The Plate
Whatever your thoughts are about the re-emergence of manufacturing in the US, the levels of automation will continue to improve and making products will become more robotic than human. 3D Printing is faster, much less expensive and more portable than current reductive manufacturing. It can be done in 1/10 the space of traditional manufacturing and it can employ individuals with varied levels of education.
The adaption of 3D Printing ( Additive Manufacturing ) is now in place. Now is the time for the public and private sectors to look at how this technology tool can be used to create a new economy that can truly change the economic landscape in your community.
In a time when technology is innovating itself, we can’t sit still while the rest of the world is moving in step. There is no box.