Can 3D printers replace actual product development process?

Last week we went with the entire class to the Design Museum’s exhibition: “Designer Maker User”. The exposition included designed items viewed through the angles of the designer, the manufacturer and the user. During the exhibition, we saw really interesting things such as a prototype of the new London tube train, a wall including old TVs, radios and video games, and even a section where all the Apple products released in their history were exhibited.

 

But in the last sector of the exposition, I saw what most caught my attention; a huge 3D printer. For the ones who don’t know this product; this printer, guided by computer software, lays down layers of material into a particular shape creating a three-dimensional object. I had seen 3D printers before but this one was massive! While I the machine was working, I was thinking on how this new technology could modify the industrial production.

 

ABS plastic and PLA are the most popular materials used by 3D printers. But imagine improving the printers so they can support metal or iron as printable materials! This would change the way products manufactured nowadays. Big factories would be replaced by medium size sheds with just space for a 3D printer and a warehouse to stock the products. And the big quantities of employees would be replaced by a few software operators to control the production. This would generate less manufacturing cost and fewer employees for the company, so the price of the products will decree dramatically.

 

Every time that I think about this kind of innovations, I get worried about the number of workers that would lose their jobs. So, what could be the next step to improve the manufacturing industry without affecting the workers?

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