Several years ago The Ink had the chance to discuss the impact of new ideas with the man in charge of setting up a vast government computer network.
The expert said the next major revolution occurring in the next 20 years – social-technological-political – would be the 3D printer.
He added that as with computers the price would drop for 3D printers and they would come to be ubiquitous in people’s homes. The future – that gleaming Jetsons dream, he said, was coming down the tracks and it was gaining speed.
Fast forward a decade and 3D printing is making inroads. Consider this from a recent Forbes article:
“The threat of 3D printing shuttering some parts manufacturers is only too real in the aviation industry, where aircraft and engine makers are investing heavily in 3D printing. In automotive manufacturing, Mercedes-Benz Trucks is allowing customers to 3D print a range of spare parts for freight trucks, while BMW has recently invested in a 3D metal printing startup. In rail, Deutsche Bahn, the German national railroad, announced last year that it will actively pursue 3D printing for train parts, while Siemens, a major rail equipment manufacturer, has begun 3D printing small-series custom train parts.
These are early adopters, but they are also the tip of the iceberg: As 3D printing speeds increase and the range of printable materials widens, the breakeven calculus is likely to become ever more persuasive.”
And consider that according to the Forbes article the second largest area expected to be impacted in the next decade by 3D printing is Textiles, furniture, jewelry and toys.
In other words the heartbeat of small, medium and vast sections of large scale industry that were ripped out of America and shipped to China (and has created and funds gigantic colonial powers like Walmart, Target and Amazon and which in turn fuels race-baiting neo-fascists nationalists like Trump and Steve Bannon) is poised to return to America – and in a massive way.
Here’s what we predict. As 3D printers become as common as home computers we will see a return to a (modernist) version of 19th century Yankee artisanal manufacturing as well as a transformation of the social, political and industrial system. Entire networks that are part of the hive-mind that uses slaves in China and Mexico to manufacture low cost material and goods to be shipped to the US will fall apart. Prepare to say goodbye to Walmart, Amazon and Target.
The resulting social upheaval will destabilize countries with limited political and social reserves (that is, dictatorial and or gangsterocracies – China and Mexico respectively will collapse as the jobs evaporate and because they have not invested in or have actively destroyed social capital and belief in a free system or system of free choice they will have less ability to absorb the coming changes).* America will face staggering social challenges but the availability of locally produced and much needed items will soften the changes. What will be crucial though will be the emergence of some form(s) of basic universal income and/or subsidies for food, housing and universal healthcare. If the giant corporations like Walmart close as their goods become easily and more cheaply available via home-based production, the loss of jobs will be enormous. To offset that loss the government will have to produce what amounts to the New Deal 2.0. While one would assume that standard Republican dogma would be against this the fact is the ground under the Republicans is going to collapse. In 20 years (barring environmental collapse and the emergence of a post-environmental dystopia) the Republican party as we know it will have vanished.
Corporations and individuals that have profited from this system will fall apart and have to scramble to try and control the 3D market.
At large scale (see the tube construction project in the linked article below as example) this will be relatively easy. Government funding and partnership with Wall Street will shift from investment in slave plantations like Foxconn to localized manufacturing – in fact we hypothesize localized production of increasingly inexpensive tech devices including smartphones and computers which will gut the tech giants and cause a secondary wave of destructive-creativity and social upheaval as stock in those corporations becomes increasingly worthless.
But at smaller (small to medium scale) levels the home will become a factory and growth as both a destabilizing force and as a transformative energy against overseas trade and against traditional industry (i.e., and e.g., old GM and Old US Steel vs a home or a small consortium of manufacturers) will expand and restore middle-class social cohesion.
Among the casualties of this looming change will be Steve Bannon and Trumpism. Bannon’s power (such as it is) requires an enemy. It requires China and jobs being moved to China. It requires a pervasive sense of the deck being stacked against the “little guy.”
But as/when 3D printers become available at low cost (and if the Sanders wing of the Democratic party has any sense at all they will offer legislation for tax credits on the purchase of 3D printers) textiles, furniture, trinkets, tools, replacement parts, etc will be manufactured at home or close by and by someone the buyer knows personally.
This will suck the life blood out of Bannonism and restore a level of social harmony unseen in decades. The jobs will return but not the factories. Bannon will be upended by one of the oldest of American cliches – Yankee ingenuity.
Consider the following from Forbes:
“Logistics firms will have an advantage over their individual spare-parts customers in that they could quickly realize economies of scale from 3D printing, by virtue of their networks of distribution centers, warehouses, and sophisticated inventory management software. Leading-edge logistics companies like UPS clearly have gotten the message: It has launched 3D printing in some 60 customer-facing stores and is even experimenting with “end-of-runway” 3D printing for critical, time-sensitive parts.
Most manufacturing and logistics organizations, however, are taking a relaxed approach to 3D printing, thinking they still have time to adapt. That is becoming less true every year. Our recent analysis suggests 3D printing could represent a $400 billion manufacturing market by 2030. Organizations that face potential disruption from 3D printing must start piloting, partnering, and investing soon if they want to be well positioned to capture future value.”
Forbes is envisioning chains like UPS dominating 3D production. This is partially correct. While UPS or FEDX will have advantages there will be no stopping the growth of home-based production as 3D printers become less and less expensive.
It is not just companies that will have to adapt. But politicians and semi-literate demagogues like Bannon who, without a windmill to joust, will fade into the dustbin of history.
The only major obstacle to this transformation is environmental. The fate of humanity hangs by a thread but localized manufacturing by home-based 3D artisans may lessen the use of fossil fuels and shrink networks that are dependent on oil or are subsidiaries of the oil industry. Transportation both by truck, rail and massive container ships and oil tankers (as well as the attached industries of ports and road and rail networks) will be radically changed.
Consider the following from “How 3D printing could disrupt Asia’s manufacturing economies” by academic researchers, Christopher H. Lim and Tamara Nir:
“The direct implication of this is an extensive disruption in global supply chains with jobs in manufacturing, logistics and warehousing being affected across many countries. Along with these, cargo transportation and port configuration would also be transformed due to the changes from economies of scale to the economy of one or few.”
And (emphasis added):
“With such a drastic technological tsunami in the manufacturing landscape, land-zoning policies might have to be reassessed. On one hand, 3D printing could potentially eliminate many large-scale assembly plants. On the other, many small and medium enterprises could serve as 3D printer services, now producing bespoke products.”
And most crucially for Bannon and Trumpism (emphasis added):
“Even the factory of the world, China, will not be spared the shocks of this new wave. With the advent of 3D printing technology, the industrialisation blueprint for southwest China would necessitate more than just cost competitiveness or the excellent infrastructure that the country has created on its east coast over the last 30 years.”
Thus Bannon’s repeated calls for an economic jihad against China and his insistence that only true believers can be supported in runs for the House, Senate and the Presidency, becomes an empty suit. By 2024 it will be a non issue.
Change is coming. Bannon is a freak – a dinosaur fighting a war that’s been decided.
The unknown element remains as always a profound risk but if an approximation of sanity and a semblance of political order can be restored beginning in 2018 and progress can be made to address climate change then the 3D revolution will be poised to become as significant as the revolutions that came before – steam, electricity, flight, industrialization.
The future is always a risk.
But there is hope.
See the forbes article here:
And a look at large scale 3D construction here:
For a brief look at the looming impact to Asia see this:
For a look at Bannon’s irrelevant rearguard action and for an example of traditional media being behind the curve see this article from The Guardian:
*A potential point of serious friction would be if, when faced with a growing irrelevancy for its industry, China in order to both retaliate against the growth of US domestic 3D production as well to raise capital to stave off economic and social upheaval begins selling off large amounts of US treasury bonds and US currency.
A new bridge in holland.
GE’s new 3D printer and The Ink notes with amusement the person quoted almost certainly is not a Trump supporter:
“Mohammad Ehteshami, part of GE‘s Project ATLAS team (Additive Technology Large Area System), said it had already been used to print a jet combustor liner. “It can also be applicable for manufacturers in the automotive, power and space industries,” he added.”
See the whole article here:
MIT unveils faster 3D printer.
More 3D news:
Assuming the environment doesn’t collapse before the future arrives advances in 3D printing might just be one of the things that “saves” people.
The 3D revolution continues: