In 2019, consumers will interact with technology in new and exciting ways that will impact how we cook, clean, drive, work and live. But for those of us who work in the tech industry, 2019 holds even greater promise and far deeper intrigue. Specifically, I think it will be a watershed year in 3D printing -- a field that is already affecting all of our lives. The real game-changer in 2019 is not what technology will do but how it will come into being. Here are three examples:
Breaking The Speed And Functionality Barrier
2019 will see the widespread availability and adoption of high-speed 3D printing. This is the new frontier of additive manufacturing, and it’s already here. Today, there are commercially available, cost-effective products that can print around 40 times faster than the average 3D printer. These “factories in a box” are perfect for printing mechanical parts, prototyping and production tooling.
What’s more, 2019 will see the mainstreaming of electrified geometries with embedded electronics. After all, there’s no reason that rapid-printed metal and plastic parts shouldn’t be functional and smart, too. There will be some 50 billion connected devices on the market soon. These products require sensors, antennae and encapsulation -- and 3D-printed electronics can lower traditional design and development processes from days to hours.
Artificial Intelligence-Driven Generative Design
Generative design is the ultimate thinking outside the box. in this case, the box of the human mind. The paradigm allows for faster morphing and optimizing, which can save money, increase scalability and raise efficiency while consuming less energy and enhancing both form and function.
In 2019, design will no longer be constrained by human experience. Indeed, design is already becoming evolutionary, mimicking nature in both sophistication and iteration. Generative design is reproducing human properties as well. For example, there are now dental implants that are being created that are more natural.
As I recently told Forbes contributor Gil Press, "The designer will simply articulate the design goals and material parameters and the AI will do the rest -- exploring nearly infinite design permutations based on existing design concepts."
Tariffs, Borders And The Shipping Industry Become Less Relevant
Even as politicians fight 20th-century-style trade wars with questionable efficacy and unforeseen consequences, geographic borders continue to effectively evaporate. In the coming years, this will make not only tariffs but also the shipping industry less and less relevant. More effective additive manufacturing will enable faster and more easily deployed manufacturing supply chains that circumvent international borders and lower consumer costs dramatically.
By way of example, consider a U.S.-based manufacturer in desperate need of a proprietary replacement part from a Chinese firm. In 2018, that part may have needed to be shipped from China to the U.S., incurring tariffs and delaying production on the U.S. side by days or even weeks. In 2019, this part may be printed on-site in the U.S., with instructions and files delivered digitally from the Chinese firm to the U.S. The end result is the same: The part becomes available. But the process is radically different -- certainly from a logistical point of view but, more dramatically, even from a regulatory perspective.
We’re already seeing the first sparks of this transformation in the automotive industry. As materials grow in sophistication and availability, I expect to see the double-digit growth predicted by Frost & Sullivan in the aerospace industry to spread to other industries, too.
4D Printing: On The Radar For 2019 And Beyond
4D printing, as one of its pioneers defines it, adds the element of time to 3D printing. Why time? Because 4D-manufactured products continue to self-adapt after they are produced.
4D printing leverages advanced physical or biological materials that are nano-engineered to respond to post-production triggers (like water, heat, wind, light or other energy) by changing their shape or other characteristics. This is already enabling the creation of self-healing, self-assembling and self-compiling products.
Yes, this is cool sci-fi-like stuff. But it’s not just theoretical. At MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab, for example, they’re already producing prototypes and models. What could a 4D-printed product look like? Consider a warehouse full of boxes that fold and unfold themselves based on changes to ambient temperature, or Ikea-style furniture that assembles itself when exposed to sunlight. How about underground pipes that can not only adapt themselves to water demand but also self-repair if necessary? How about shoes that can adapt to the activity you're doing or the environment you're in?
The Bottom Line
In an era in which the wheel is literally being reinvented, disruption has become the rule and not the exception. In 2019 and beyond, additive manufacturing will be the force pulling back the curtain on the inner workings of disruption. The game changers, in other words, will be the forces behind the games.
Read the full article in Forbes.