Do you know what additive manufacturing is? Do you know what 3-D printing is? If you make things or buy things that are made, you should probably know. Everyone else can delete this post.
After reading an article titled “It’s Happening, and It Will Transform Your Operations and Strategy” in the Harvard Business Review’s May 2015 issue (I have read many other articles on the subject, but I would highly recommend reading this one), I had a conversation with a buddy who owns a small machining business. I asked, “Bruce, will additive manufacturing affect your business?” He replied, “Absolutely, eventually it will.” Then I asked, “What was the last technological change of this magnitude?” He replied, “CNC machines, which were first built in the 1940s, over 70 years ago.”
I think you get the point. Here are just a few excerpts from the HBR article:
- In 2005 there were only 50 patents relating to additive manufacturing. By 2013, the number had grown to more than 600 worldwide.
- In 2014, sales of industrial-grade 3-D printers in the U.S. were already one-third the volume of industrial automation and robotic sales.
- The U.S. hearing aid industry converted to 100 percent additive manufacturing in fewer than 500 days.
- GE Aviation has switched to printing the fuel nozzles of certain jet engines and expects to churn out more than 45,000 a year. The new technology allows a nozzle that used to be assembled from 20 separately cast parts to be fabricated in one piece, which will cut the cost of manufacturing by 75 percent.
- In Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military has been using drones from Aurora Flight Sciences, which prints the entire body of these unmanned aerial vehicles — some with wingspans of 132 feet — in one build.
So, do you make stuff? Do you buy stuff that is made?
Let me quote the article: “Smart business leaders aren’t waiting for all the details and eventualities to reveal themselves.”