We've talked recently about the 3D printing revolution and the problems around it. Rather than go back and read two articles, here's the summary: 3D printing offers a lot of gains when it comes to localized manufacturing, custom manufacturing, and product longevity, but the technology isn't mainstream yet and there are a lot of  quirks that need sorting before it enters the mainstream.

As part of a larger solution, however, 3D printing is already part of a technology surge that is having an effect on the global manufacturing industry and will soon have an effect on every organization's supply chain. The assembly lines that churned out a massive quantity of goods, in the cheapest way possible, then distributed them globally from a central location are being threatened by a new solution. Smaller production methods -- facilitated by new designs that ease assembly and are capable of being produced simply from a selection of cheaper, more localized machinery -- in aggregate, can produce the same quantity of goods as these assembly lines while offering more custom or more unique products, reducing the resources and overhead needed for production, and reduce the landed costs by being produced locally.

Three-dimensional printing is one example of this. Another example making the news recently are services like OpenDesk.cc, which offer modern wood furniture designs, for free, in formats that are able to be fed into CNC machines and cut out on standard sheets of plywood or printed out as cutting & assembly guides. As a bonus, all the furniture designs are flat-pack. The idea is firmly in the "novel" category right now, but stands to make an impact. Imagine one day, instead of buying your company's pallets from a supplier and paying for their transport and the supplier's margin, you have the ability to print and assemble them on site. Or instead of heading off to comb a gigantic warehouse store for coffee and side tables armed with a catalog and cash, you instead head to a small wood shop, where you go to the proper webpage, feed in a sheet of wood, and press a button.

While I personally love any type of furniture shopping that includes meatballs, printing a custom bookshelf and the knick-knacks for it sounds pretty cool to me.

As fuel costs get higher and higher, the incentive for localized production methods increases. As technology advances, the ease of developing these localized methods grows. Take a look around your desk, and around  your facilities at all the manufactured goods you currently order. From pipe fitting gaskets to the door of your office, all of these will soon be able to be affordably manufactured locally or on site.
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Nicholas Hamner

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