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3D Print, the iPhone and You

by Pete Basiliere  |  May 16, 2019  |  Submit a Comment

Every one of us has a mobile phone or tablet. And the fact that you do is the reason that manufacturing is undergoing a radical transformation.

A radical transformation enabled by information technology.

Your mobile phone or tablet was produced in the tens if not hundreds of thousands of units. Each one has the same case, same glass, same antennas, same chips. They are uniform.

But what did you do when you opened the box that it came in? You powered it up, created a password, changed the settings, added apps, deleted apps, moved icons around.

You made your device unique.

There is not another one like it anywhere, worldwide.

And that is what you expected, isn’t it? As a consumer, the idea of personalizing a mobile phone or tablet is perceived as a right.












Photo Source: Maxpixel

So, are you listening to the consumer in you? Are you enabling a shift from uniform products to unique items in your organization?

Now, I will grant you that some items will always be made in large uniform quantities. We expect soft drinks to taste the same wherever and whenever consumed. We expect the gasoline that powers our cars (or the electricity that charges our autonomous vehicles) to be the same whenever we use it. Why? Because the value is in the product’s sameness.

Think about your mobile phone. You expect it to connect to the phone company, to the internet, to Bluetooth devices. You expect sameness—in the background. But in the foreground, you expect uniqueness.

You are not alone. More and more people around the world expect unique or niche products that meet their personal needs.

Fortunately, from a manufacturing and supply chain perspective, the tools that enable mass customization are either already in place or coming.

For example, IT has developed the software that not only enables personalization of a mass-produced mobile phone but also the AI algorithms that subtly, constantly, pervasively tailor the mobile phone to your evolving needs. And conventional manufacturing processes like machining, molding, casting and printing are squeezing out inefficiencies and employing digital techniques to enable, if not unique, very short run quantities.

But can software and hardware combine to enable physically unique products—the ideal design that the customer wants, where the customer wants it? Over the past month, in visits to Barcelona Spain and Erlangen Germany, I have observed how HP and Siemens are among other 3D printing technology providers who are doing just that.

HP has transformed how the 3D printer industry markets its products. Formerly, vendor messaging was targeted at engineers and designers who, in fairness, were the original buyers. HP arrived at its first Formnext and shook the industry with its go-to-market strategy. Of course, messages are not as important as products are. HP’s 3D printer range has grown and expanded, with metal capabilities and, more recently, its Jet Fusion 5200 high productivity model and a wider range of materials.

Long term, however, content will be more important than the 3D printer. Just as the content on a mobile device is more important than the physical device, so will the items that you can make become more important than which 3D printer model is used to produce them.

Siemens’ Digital Industries offerings (3D design, optimization, simulation, production, IoT integration, factory planning, analytics, and archival and retrieval) enable content management throughout the 3D printing life cycle. Siemens’ Additive Manufacturing Experience Center includes a very impressive DMG Mori machining center with its metal directed energy deposition tool, as well as its HP 3D printers and others that are coming. The Center’s purpose is to enable organizations to better understand how they can develop and demonstrate new industrial-scale 3D printing applications—content, really.

Every one of us has a mobile phone or a tablet within reach.

And the fact that we do is the reason that manufacturing must undergo a radical transformation.

The question is not whether the transformation will happen. The question is: What will you do?

Additional Resources

Category: 3d-printing  additive-manufacturing  advanced-manufacturing  digital-disruption-and-innovation  manufacturing-operations-strategy-and-performance  research-and-development  supply-chain-strategy-leadership-and-governance  technology-and-emerging-trends  

Tags: 3-d-print  3d-print  3d-printer  additive-manufacturing  cad  computer-aided-design  dmg-mori  formnext  hp  hpi  rd  rapid  siemens  

Pete Basiliere
Research Vice President
12 years at Gartner
18 years IT Industry

Mr. Basiliere provides research-based insights on 3D printing and digital printing hardware, software and materials. Mr. Basiliere's Maverick research coined the term Generation AI, people born after 2010 who will not know a world without application intelligence in their lives. Read Full Bio

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