It’s fascinating to see developments in 3-D printing technology. Will this really change the way we produce, how we consume? Or will it just remain a niche, a hobby for tech geeks?Fact is, the technology is rapidly developing. I saw a video recently, making a complex structure out of a liquid in minutes time scale. They just pulled the structure out of the liquid – like in a sci-fi movie. I am not so sure, if the future of 3D print is really about that evey consumer now becomes a “prodsumer” and just prints its every day use objects at home.
I believe, the disruption will play out on another place. And I am convinced that thsi place is commercial production. Sure, also in the future the standard structures will be manufactured by standard processes in high number. But there are so many difficult to make structures, made in low number – parts for airplane engines for instance. There are so many so far “impossible to make” structures. There will be disruptions of whole segments and industries, just as manual, elaborated work will be replaced by 3D printers.
Just as an example, take my best friends Jana and Andreas. They run a dentist office together with their own prothetic lab. It is an advantage to do teh protethic in-house, instead to give it away to a bigger lab. The customers like it. My friends were alsways at the forefront of protetic innovation, they worked with suppliers on new materials tests, gave presentations on congresses. They invested a lot in the past years into equipment and technology, the lab is spacy, modern, stylish. My friend Andy says (whilst we zipping an espresso): “This all will be gone in 5 years from now. Than my job is obsolet and over there, in the dentist office there is a 3D printer taht will be operated by one of our assistants.
Never has been this technology disruption been more tangible to me. All that shakers and stirrers, all that scales and ovens – soon gone. The highly skilled – manual – work of the protectic technician – obsolete. The dentist will just scan the inside of our mouth, and than teh printer will do the rest. Already now there is technology available to combine soft (red) tissue with hard (white) material in one printer. I assume these “printed” protheses will fit much better than the hand crafted ones we get now.
We are already in that revolution, in the 3rd wave. I’m not in sorrow for my friends. They will find new opportunities. But is this industry prepared? What will all that bigger and smaller protectic labs do? What will be the marketd of all that equipment providers?
What is in for us, in the Chemical Industry? New materials? Better services?
How about your segment? How do you prepare for the disruptions that will come?