On The Digital Life this week we look at how additive fabrication / 3D printing is increasingly being used for production applications in manufacturing. We may be on the verge of a new kind of product lifecycle, as we imagine a future with greater digital / physical integration,
where we can print more products locally than we ship from a warehouse far away, where we can creatnew things that can't be manufactured in a traditional way, and where everything can be customized.
According to the Financial Times, 60% of the $6.1B of additive manufacturing product and services is now related to production applications. This includes industries including aerospace, healthcare, consumer goods and others, for products ranging from sneakers to dental retainers to jet engines. For example, the McLaren Racing team is using 3D printers from Stratasys to create and modify parts on its Formula 1 race car. Reducing the time it takes to replace parts is a key competitive advantage since Formula 1 race cars need to be constantly maintained.
Of course, additive fabrication is still limited by the speed of 3D printing and the types of materials you can use for various applications. But, as quality and speed improve, there may come a time soon where this new product lifecycle is truly possible, if not probable.
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