Humanity’s greatest challenge has always been economics. The distribution of a finite amount of goods and resources, and the desire for more (or at least a larger share than one’s rivals) has been the true root of all our conflicts, and our anxieties.

But what happens when we remove scarcity from the equation? What would you do with yourself if you always knew you would never worry about food, shelter, or even luxuries?

The absurdity of such a scenario is in doubt now more than ever. New manufacturing techniques and advancements in GNR are offering glimpses into a new economic landscape where everything we thought we knew as scarcity is being challenged. Sourcing is going to change, and you have to be ready for it.

One of the most exciting of these new advancements is a material fabrication process called additive manufacturing, known colloquially as 3D Printing.

For the uninitiated, 3D Printing is a set of techniques that uses a custom printing head to place layers of a special type of plastic only microns thick one atop another from a 3D design on a computer, eventually forming a complete object. The capabilities of these machines to produce objects which, reasonably, could not physically be made in any other way has been seen in the creations of the online communities who are constantly trying to push the limits of these machines for both practical and impractical applications with resources all around the web.

One of the most remarkable things about 3D printers is that they can be purchased for home use. This isn’t something you only see in a large manufactory held only by companies that can invest in cutting edge tech. There are several models which range between $1,500 and $3,000, one of the most popular being the Makerbot Replicator 2, which will set you back around $2,000. With one of these sitting on your desk next to your home computer, you can churn out a huge variety of consumer goods on your own. Utensils, plates, phone cases, hinges, figurines, anything you can imagine, anything you can create! Imagine a miniature factory in your living room that provided you with everything you needed. That’s the idea that has so many consumers so excited, and also has businesses worried.

Picture your supply chain - picture all of the people that make it work, that move the goods, the factories that produce them, and the distances and energy and time it takes to turn an idea for a product into something your customers are holding in their hands. Now picture a world where all of that is completely obsolete. With 3D printing, product designers and consumers interact directly, and objects are produced by the consumer on demand. The days of getting funding and producing an initial run of a product based on a(n educated) guess of potential market demand are coming to a close.

The technology for 3D printing is advancing nearly as fast as the various repositories of objects available for free to download and print on your own device. Methods have improved, and the list of printable materials is expanding, recently shown in plans to develop printers capable of replicating human organs by layering cells, and creating a biological beef alternative by carefully layering cultured cells instead of taking it directly from livestock.

A partnership between academic researchers and major construction firms is developing a house-sized mobile printer, capable of fabricating entire houses at a rate of about one per day, with minimal construction waste. Additional benefits to this project include and truly customized designs and layouts and a total build price at a fraction of the current cost for a new home.

NASA has plans to build a 3D printing factory in orbit, which conjures thoughts about how this technology will help facilitate human expansion beyond earth, and even beyond our solar system.

The next major advancement for the technology will come when we perfect the ability of these devices to print electronic components into objects, allowing for smaller, lighter, stronger, more powerful gadgets.

The potential for this to work in concert with other amazing advancements like Graphene, the proposed ETT network, and even more fanciful and far-reaching projects like a potential Space Elevator, will undo everything we thought we knew about sourcing.

All of these technological innovations have hurdles to overcome before they becomes ubiquitous technology, satisfying all of our needs, and allowing us to enhance the gestalt of humanity. Hopefully, though, the promise alone inspires you to sit and consider its full potential, and what sort of landscape it will produce, both for the world and for your company. The post-scarcity world envisioned by enthusiasts and economists alike will completely redesign our economy. The winners will be the ones who can tap into the limitless potential for human creativity to compete in the new marketplace for ideas. Get excited.

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Marck Goldstein

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