This is what President Obama had to say about 3D printing and his plan for the manufacturing sector in his State of the Union address yesterday:
“Last year, we created our first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio. A once-shuttered warehouse is now a state-of-the art lab where new workers are mastering the 3D printing that has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything. There’s no reason this can’t happen in other towns. So tonight, I’m announcing the launch of three more of these manufacturing hubs, where businesses will partner with the Departments of Defense and Energy to turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs. And I ask this Congress to help create a network of fifteen of these hubs and guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing is Made in America. If we want to make the best products, we also have to invest in the best ideas.”
Very true. But to get from those ‘best ideas’ to those ‘best products’ is no trivial thing. In today’s consumer market, competition is more fierce than at any time in history. Not only do customers demand higher quality but they demand it at a competitive price. And that’s why 3D printing is such an important component of today’s economic recovery.
Obama’s plan of bringing more manufacturing jobs back to the US is commendable and very necessary – but is it realistic? And how?
The Microsoft Surface tablet was prototyped hundreds of times on the Objet Connex 3D printing system before entering production
Well, with 3D printing and additive manufacturing it should be possible to do at least these three things:
First, it should be possible for more innovators to demonstrate and prove their idea concept via small, affordable 3D printers such as the Mojo that will soon be found in every design office. This means we should be able to boost the number of good ideas that actually get to be seen and considered by investors and upper management.
Second, 3D printing will enable that good idea to be refined into a superior product through intensive prototyping. Obama mentioned the example of Apple, so to stay in the same ballpark let’s take Microsoft: Objet Connex 3D printing technology was used to create the over 300 prototypes used to perfect the new Microsoft Surface tablet. Even a simple thing like the stand for the device was prototyped over and over again until it was deemed ready for market.
And thirdly, 3D printing will enable the creation of a smarter production line, where Direct Digital Manufacturing systems such as the Fortus 900 will be used to manufacture batches of customizable parts within a product to meet the exacting quality demands of today’s consumers.
Direct Digital Manufacturing (DDM) has the potential to re-shape the production line towards greater efficiency and flexibility
This is what 3D printing is about – encouraging excellence in design and ensuring that that excellence is not lost in translation when it reaches the hands of the end user. Without 3D printing this would be a long, tedious and expensive process that few companies would be able to carry through – and something that would be much harder for cash-strapped economies to invest in.
3D printing opens the door to a future of fast, effective quality control resulting in more exciting and more life-changing US made products. And that is the value that it can offer to the US economy and to the global marketplace. It’s no wonder then that Obama is prioritizing the technology for his next term!