When we consider the technological advancements of the last five years, it is the pace of change that is most remarkable. As a result, the factories of 2030 may appear unrecognisable compared to today. 3D printing has already made inroads in construction, healthcare and even food. It isn’t hard to imagine that 3D printing will change the way we live.
Challenge to Mass Production
It hasn’t taken long for 3D printing technology to become a serious threat to traditional mass production methods. Large corporate entities like Adidas are planning to open two factories, one in the United States and one in Germany, that will essentially remove the need to rely on exploitative labour in the developing world. The Economist reports:
“There are many ways to print something in three dimensions, but all have one thing in common: instead of cutting, drilling and milling objects, as a conventional factory does, to remove material and arrive at the required shape, a 3D printer starts with nothing and add stuffs to it. The adding is done according to instructions from a computer program that contains a virtual representation of the object to be made, stored as a series of thin slices. These slices are reproduced as successive layers of material until the final shape is complete.”
Also known as Additive Production, this technique has the potential to be a game changer. The cost of 3D printers is lowering every day, and as the technology spreads further it is incorporated in more and more manufacturing processes.
A fascinating article by Patrick Boyd in Appliance Design put forward the case for why factories of the future will be hives of Additive Production, which will in turn will require a team of specialists.
Employment of the Future
There has been some concern regarding job creation. If the factory of the future is reliant on 3D printing, thus only requiring a handful of employees, the regular workforce will drastically shrink.
If the future of mass production is indeed in the hands of 3D printing, then some preparation and discussion is necessary. Millions of ordinary workers across the world rely on manufacturing jobs, and technological advancement puts their employment at risk.
For now, we are only seeing the major benefits of how 3D technology streamlines even the most complicated production tasks, but it remains to be seen what effect this will have on the existing workforce.