I’ve raved in the past about 3D printing’s revolutionary potential, but I’ll admit I was still thinking primarily in terms of rapid prototyping and one-off repair parts. Now, according to Bloomberg, HP is going to transfer its ink-jet printer expertise to the 3D printer field, with a $130,000 model set for release later this year that, for the first time, could make 3D Printing practical and affordable for large-scale manufacturing, with “parts at half the expense and at least 10 times faster than rival printers — and likely [using] lower-cost materials.”
Combined with the IoT, that would go a long way toward making my “precision manufacturing” vision a reality, with benefits including less waste, streamlined products (a single part replacing multiple ones that previously had to be combined into the final configuration), factories that are less reliant on outside parts and encouraging mass customization of products that would delight customers.
Customers are already lining up, and see manufacturing-scale 3D printing as a game-changer:
“Jabil Circuit Inc. [itself a digital supply-chain innovator] plans to be an early adopter of HP’s device, printing end plastic parts for aerospace, auto and industrial applications that it currently makes using processes such as injection molding, John Dulchinos, vice president of digital manufacturing at the electronics-manufacturing service provider, said in an interview.
“‘We have use cases in each of these segments,’ Dulchinos said. ‘Parts that are in hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of units — it’s cheaper to 3D print them than mold them.’”
Other HP partners in the venture include BMW, Nike, and and Johnson & Johnson. The article cites research by Wohlers Associates predicting that manufacturing using 3D printers could “eventually grab at least 5 percent of the worldwide manufacturing economy, and translate into $640 billion in annual sales.”
3D Systems is also making the transition to large-scale 3D printing.
As I’ve written before in regard to GE’s leadership in the field, toss in some nanotech on the side, and you’ve really got something.