Industrial Revolution

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Printing is the new manufacturing
Three-dimensional printing is not new; it has been applied in science and industry for years. But due to advances in technology it is now be- coming increasingly relevant for private cos- tumers. It is as easy as this: what can be printed with ink on paper, can also be printed using solid materials such as plastics, metal powder, gypsum or synthetic resin. Using a laser and powder, ob- jects are being built, micrometer-thin layer by layer. All one needs is a set of data. What used to require a couple of machines and materials can now be replaced by a single 3D printer. 3D printers are mainly used for small repair parts such as screws and nuts, however, there seems to be no limit when it comes to the size of the print. Italian inventor and engineer Enrico Dini of Pisa developed a 3D printer called ’D-Shape‘ with which he printed an entire house within a week. His next printing job: a moon base. Printing in three-dimensional space will revolu- tionise the process of production, according to Neil Gershenfeld, Head of the Centre for Bits and Atoms at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT): “3D printing technology will not only re- define the balance of power in industrial manu- facturing, but also shock the economic world as a whole.” On one hand, objects can be produced easily and with yet unused materials (e.g. Enrico Dini‘s house), which also promotes a simplified distribution into the markets. Corporations thus profit from efficiency and cost benefits due to the lack of production, storage and delivery costs and the accompanying reduced CO2 emissions. On the other hand, now everyone is able to own a small manufacturing line at home. Printers for private use are becoming \more affordable; cur- rent prices start at 400 USD, going up to 15,000 USD for the ‘Designjet 3D‘ by Hewlett-Packard. With this model, it is possible to print any plastic item, layer by layer, up to the size of a shoebox. Original in danger?

3D printers in...