Thursday, 25 June 2015

Manufacturing Renaissance: 
Instant Production (Part-I)


Phil Dickenson.
Professor of Advanced Manufacturing,
Loughborough University.
Reaction to my concept of my
Instant Production Technology visioneering
and what it entails,
at a seminal TCT conference.

An earth shuddering rebirth of the means to production is rapidly moving towards a tipping point. 

A Manufacturing Renaissance that will be more profound than all the industrial epochs since organised production begun in ancient Mesopotamia 5 millennia ago.

By its zenith, this maker renaissance will influence more than marginal productivity. It is beginning to transform how and where things are made; a new synthesis that is profoundly and positively impacting on the potential of Design, Engineering, Medicine and Architectural Construction; the Arts, Crafts and Musical potential is being extended. It will even impact on the retail experience to an extent that will ultimately be unrecognisable, enabling the creation of on-the-spot production of goods and services that by even the most recent standards will amaze the most ardent of sceptics. And considering the potential utility of the these instant fabricating utensils, one marvels at potential market value, the kinds of inspiring new job creation and creative advantage they give in the context of increasing global competition.

The Gadget of Gadgets!

I am sure that back in the original Renaissance – and through the many productive eras akin to the construction of the Pyramids, ancient city of Roman, the Medieval Machine, the Enlightenment, the Dutch Golden Age and the Industrial Revolution – that there must have been an Engineer of sorts that gasped for a device that would make him a mock-up or a model of what was rattling around in his head. I sometimes wonder whether the great de Vinci himself mussed with such an idea.

And then in 1991, out of the blue, there it was: a machine that did precisely just that. A device that literally printed out solid 3D prototype models from computer drafts! And that is where it started. The beginning of a new industrial age, based on a technology that quite literally manufactures objects that designers and engineers can hold, prod, test and blow-up in the lab. An amazing machine that is not simply another gadget; but the gadget of gadgets. A devise that gives endless durable geometric possibilities to deliberate, improve and eventually decide upon.

And from those yearling days almost three decades ago, much has developed; giant leaps in innovation to a point today where the technology is beginning to print out quite sophisticated, quite complicated, quite technologically demanding finished end-products, in one hit! How this has panned out is quite an interesting story in itself. But where is it going next? A world that is hanging with bated breath for the next big breakthrough in a new Manufacturing Renaissance.

Time Compression Technology (TCT): 2025+ Vision.

In late 2006, I had the privilege of delivering the closing address at the ‘Time Compression Technology: Rapid Manufacturing Conference.’ The convention is known to be Europe’s most innovative exposé of the world of a Design Productivity (DP) and Rapid Manufacturing (RM). The paper I presented was entitled ‘Instant Production Technology and the New Industrial Revolution!’

I stated - to paraphrase - that manufacturing was at the beginning of a transformation. I said that making stuff will not only become more local to demand, but eventually ubiquitous in the home, the school, the hospital and other private and public places. That, enterprises that created and made custom designs would flourish. That manufacturing services would emerge on the local high street. That inexpensive Three-Dimensional-Printing (3DP) machine sales would tip from a few thousand units a year and begin to rise toward 100s of thousands of units. Showing trends that rapid manufacturing technologies would blossom into a multibillion dollar GigaIndustry up towards and beyond 2010+.

Then I began to look out further to the year 2015+ ‘Zap: The Emergence of Instant Production Technology (IPT).’ That RM yield in terms of cycle-time, precision, resolution, complexity, material performance and component variety will reach a critical point where, quite literally RM will begin to rise toward ‘Instant Production Technology.’ That the first integrated top-down multiplicative production systems appear, purchased by high-end manufacturers and specialist users, enabling engineers to design and test fully functional prototypes in extremely quick cycles: hours instead of days; days in place of months. That integrated components that precisely merge from one material to another specified substraight in a controlled manner, start to emerge. That means electromechano components – say a toroidal choke with integrated yoke – is produced in one hit, becomes viable for the first time. Investment in multiplicative processes, hence, burgeons.

I went on to year 2020+: ‘Hocuspocus: Top-Down Hybrid IPT on an Industrial Scale.’ I said that if the likes Hewlett Packard (in 2006 HP had no RM tech on the market: but do now) have their way, by 2020+ completely assembled consumer durables and other sundry items – that’s roller-skates, electronic calculators, TV and games controllers, and eventually all basic consumer gadgets and gizmos (including the packaging) – will be designed, manufactured and assembled through so-called hybrid top-down IPT, just like magic.

Commercialisation of Top-Down Hybrid IPT systems consisting of microelectromechanical assembly systems incorporating a suite of ultra-refined, super-tolerance and uniquely novel rapid manufacturing technologies by today‘s standards (2006) begins. I said ‘expect to see seminal hybrid IPT integrating microlasers (sub-micron cut/etch), microminture transfer systems, miniature x-ray lithography, hybrid/smart fusion materials, and automated microscopy inspection.’

Then I really began to look far out: 2025+: ‘Just Add Water TVs: At Home with Bottom-Up IPT.’ Consumer nanofactories, such as countertop synthesisers and matter printers will begin to revolutionise the way household objects are acquired. HDTVs and eventually all domestic size consumer gadgets are manufactured near or at home. By using artificial innovation tools the range of products will no longer be limited by the imagination. Products will be world-shattering by today's (2006 again) standards. The capability to pack a hypercomputer in all and sundry will spring forth artefacts of mind-blowing extent. Remarkably simplex cybernetic devices and cobots will be produced quickly and efficiently.

The end-price of such revolutionary merchandise will no longer be a consequence of the physical artefact itself. The cost and scale of magnitude, style, elegance, smartness and complexity will no longer be relevant in a consumers purchase decision. Value will be a consequence of the information that it took to synthesize the gadget. Pay-for-bite will be the main deciding factor, and that will in the main be a consequence of the value of the intellectual property.

At the industrial level, high performance product design, development and verification will still be costly; but once designed; units can be manufactured in quantity – that’s fully functioning Electrical Auto Engines, Hydrogen Jet Turbines, and advanced Pharmaceuticals all for pennies per pound.

Where Next?

And that was projected-out in 2006, and I would still say today, quiet a daring set of forecasts and scenarios considering! So how well did I do? Based on what I maintained, how far has all this come? What is happening today? And considering the evidence (below) is what I forecasted still on track towards and beyond 2020+ and 2025+?

From an analyst’s point of view, sitting on the side-lines, forecasting technological trend lines 10-to-20 years hence is somewhat of a passive role. The analyst is merely there to gather the empirical data and plot the trend (e.g.; the UN’s forecast for world population by 2030). But put yourself in my position. I am gaining insight, knowledge and unheard information that the passive analyst just does not get to hear or see. In fact, I recall Rachel Park, former editor of TCT Magazine espousing that they (TCT) just do not get to hear about the info I was giving up!

So, be on guard, as other commentator’s forecasts that you may hear at the time of this reading, might just be a tad conservative compared to what I am about to show! There are both emerging and potential GigaMarkets of untold value here.

But first, let us begin to look at the technologies, their capabilities, their outputs and then their wizard like potential. And once again, where did all this begin?
Manufacturing Renaissance: Ubiquitous Instant Production (Part-II):
The Rapid Manufacturing (RM) Industry is Born!

If it were possible to tag one man with firing up the RM revolution; it would have to be the bold and innovative Charles ‘Chuck’ Hall. Chuck qualifies, because in 1986 he patented the much acclaimed workhorse Stereolithography (SLA); the original RM archetype. The system was first introduced in 1991, what was back then deemed as a Buck Roger’s toy and re-selling at a whooping five-hundred-thousand dollars!

But toy it was not! The breakthrough device was the first system ever to produce physical 3D models by so-called additive processes. The SLA machine used beams of ultraviolet laser light on curable liquid photopolymer resins, in turn using cross-linking to create a solid, layer-by-layer. After the pattern has been traced, the SLA's elevator platform descends by a distance equal to the thickness of a single layer (typically 0.05 mm to 0.15 mm); then, a blade sweeps across the section of the platform; re-coating it with fresh material. On this new liquid surface, the subsequent layer pattern is traced, joining the previous layer. A complete additive 3D component is formed. After being built, parts are immersed in a chemical bath in order to be cleaned of excess resin and are subsequently cured in an ultraviolet oven.

Industry Key Technologies and Practitioners

The legacy from the original SLA ferment has been frenetic. As a large number of distinct RM platform innovations have emerged over the last two decades: Fused Deposition Modeling; Laminated Object Manufacturing; Selective Laser Sintering; Laminated Engineering Net Shaping and Electron Beam Melting are some of the bigger themes.

An abundance of RM Enterprises have formed and grown in and around this new industry: 3D Systems, Stratasys, EOS, Z-Corporation, Materialise, Arcam, Shapeways, Optomec, ExOne, Fab@Home, MakerBot, ReaLizer, RepRap, Shapeways, Digital Forming, MGX, Ultimaker, Builder, Witbox, Leapfrog, Felix and more on the horizon!

I will come to several of these firms and their technologies below. However, an in-depth analysis of each company is beyond the scope of this book. I would suggest Googling each firm for a deeper look.

Rapid Additive Prototype Manufacturing.

Quantum physicists oft pose that the Universe has not merely three-dimensions, plus one other we call time; but eleven! When one tries to think of a multidimensional Universe, it tends (or at least for me) to boggle the mind. That we can at least see three of the dimensions (up, down, and sideways)  and experience the fourth (the alarm clock going off in the morning). But Q-physicists are adamant that the other 7 dimensions are very tiny and folded-up inside each other in a kind of complicated origami space-field. Mind boggling! But what does that have to do with RM?

Over that last two decades the range of materials available for RM has burgeoned from the original low-resolution homogeneous photopolymer to a broad array of performance heterogeneous materials athwart of co-polymers, metal alloys, fine grained ceramics and hybrid composites.

Objects Connex 3D by Stratasys, for example, is a printing system that has the capacity to fabricate so-called Digital Materials that give predetermined mechanical properties and parameters which emulate the final manufactured product intended material performance.

Two discrete materials, picked from 17 primary materials can fuse in 136 potential combinational universes [(17(17-1)/2=136]. A Connex part can be printed with 14 material multidimensional combinations in one 3D printing procedure (my 11 dimension Universe metaphor – now I get it!). The material can simulate elastomeric behaviours ranging from Shore hardness 27-to-95, ridged, tough to engineering grade ABS.

This begins to illustrate the new technical capability for such RM technology. A mere 10 years ago, this would have been quite impossible.

Express Metal Fabrication: Integral Parts without Expensive Tooling.

As a young design engineer I used to tease the toolmakers I worked with when making design modifications. There is an age old problem where if a component feature, like an aperture or diahole had to be increased; then the core inside the mould tool had to be increase in size as well. And that invariably meant the core had to be replaced with a larger hub, increasing time and capital costs. ‘When are you going to invent a metal on-tool,’ I would moan. But that was back in the 1990s.

Now comes a host of ‘metal-on’ RM equipment. One being Arcam EBM® Electron Beam Melting, which builds up metal powder layer-by-layer, fully dense metal components, which is melted by a powerful electron beam. Each layer is melted to the exact geometry defined by a CAD model.

This is a new paradigm for industrial manufacture as metal is added instead of removed, as in the case in traditional machining. EBM allows for the building of parts with very complex geometries without tooling and fixtures; and without producing any waste material. Good for reducing capital costs, good for the environment.

EBM provides enormous benefits for the entire production value-chain. Geometrical design scope is freed as envisioned, doing away with traditional manufacturing constraints (undercuts, drafts, secondary surface finishes, time and cost consuming assembly), translating to extremely light-weight designs, reduced part count, and improved integrity without expensive casting or forging stock.

Revolutionary Physical Geometric Capabilities.

Rapid Manufacturing systems are giving new life to spaces and shapes once only relegated to the imagination. Real components are being made that were thought quite impossible geometrically 10 years ago. You may have seen 2D pictures of the inverse-impossible loop that folds itself up inside itself? Now, 3D Systems are printing out seemingly impossible convoluted geometric pattern. I think M.C Escher would be dumbfounded. New, strange and counterintuitive geometry is now being explored in physical reality.

By simulating nature’s organic structured lattice, convoluted organic forms are facilitating designs that are lighter and have more efficient structures which have significant strength to wait ratio  improvement (Now you know why nature’s humble Bumble Bee can fly, when it is not suppose too!).

3DP Optical Systems.

Recent developments in 3DP technology have enabled the fabrication of high resolution transparent plastics with similar optical properties to Plexiglas. One-off 3DP optical elements can be designed and fabricated literally within minutes than conventional mould manufacturing; greatly in-creasing accessibility and reducing end-to-end production  time. 

Lighting products such a focusable spotlights, photometry systems such photometric measurement or high precision telescopic lens are beginning to me made on the spot for pennies with no tooling capital investment costs.

Protos, a custom eyewear venture established in San Francisco, produce sunglasses via 3DP. Protos aim for striking designs, cost prohibitive through conventional manufacturing methods. Finding a pair of rays that fit and looks kool is, for many Californian types, a niggling problem, often ending in a compromise on the customer’s part. The design strategy is to tailor a fit based on an individual’s facial measurements uses advanced manufacturing such as selective laser sintering, 3D scanning and parametric 3D modelling to develop and manufacture customizable products that would not exist by other means.

Multifunctional Inks and Multifunctional Deposition Heads.

The next leap-on in the RM world is Multifunctional Inks and Multifunctional Deposition Heads‘Functional’ at its entry level means parameters like tough, inert or transparent (above). It can also mean insulating (dielectric), semiconducting and conducting. However, where this process gets interesting is the creation of Multifunctional Materials! Otherwise known as smart or dynamic materials; multifunctional materials have specific active behaviours and properties. In turn, such n-materials are made from multifunctional inks which enable the manufacture of complex active components with three-dimensional gradients and differentiated structures; say from sliver-to-plastic-to-ceramic-to-carbon, et al.  Resulting in paradoxical differentiated fine-grain isotropic multimaterial structures.

IFAM is a German R&D led materials manufacturer, developing integrated 3DP techniques that utilise multifunctional-inks to produce gradient materials with local phases (differentiated composition), giving customized and integrated component functions. 3D printing of discrete electrical components such resistors and diodes; while some headway has been achieved with active electrical components such as simple integrated circuits.

Clearly, such smart enabling inks need a way of being deposited: hence, multiplicative deposition heads. These enable multiplicative processes, not just additive processes. One of the most disruptive technologies here is the so-called 3D inkjet-multihead. The multihead is one of the prime enabling technologies for geometrically complex, differentiated gradients and active multifunctional materials. The goal of multihead deposition is to be print layer by layer, at the sub-micron level, without any post processing.

Together, multifunctional-inks and multihead-deposition means a major milestone for RM technology: to print out complete functional components and assemblies in one hit. For example, the notion of printing out a working television remote controller may seem outlandish, but a team of engineers at the University of California are developing multiplicative inkjet heads that does just that. Instead of fabricating a plastic housing and then arduously populating it with components, circuit boards, and connectors, a complete and fully assembled functional device is printed in one hit.

Commodity devices such as handheld touches, radios, mobile phones or pocket calculators will emerge as fully working systems, in one hit. A television remote controller printed as a single continuous multifunctional assembly would contain the buttons, a polymer-based infrared emitter and polymer-based electronics, as well as the light-emitting device. Clearly the way artefact are made are about to go through radical transformation.
Manufacturing Renaissance: Ubiquitous Instant Production (Part-III)
Integrative RM Trends: Hybrid ‘Top-Down’ Direct Digital Manufacturing.

Hence world firsts are abound in this industry. Hybrid electronic circuitry and mechanical structures are beginning to be successfully three dimensionally printed (3DP). Smart Wing is part of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) with multifunctional integrated electronics printed within the wing assembly. The prototype is a Hyperinnovation between Aerostructures Research Group.

The Optomec Aerosol Jet System is used to print a conformal sensor, antenna and circuitry directly onto the wing of a UAV model. The wing was 3DP with the Stratasys Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) process. The electrical and sensor designs were provided by Aurora Flight Sciences, a supplier of UAVs. Using direct hybrid digital manufacturing techniques gives the capability to print multifunctional electronic systems into complex-shaped structures using additive RM. This enables rapid customisation UAVs, potentially closer to the field, when and where needed.

Multifunctional 3DP benefits are manifold; enabling lighter-weight mechanical structures with corresponding 3DP electronic circuits, freeing-up additional space for payload with much less material. This ground-breaking project is a vanguard paving the way to the radical transform in product design and development. In turn, giving a true sea change in integrated manufacture-production-assembly across high-end technology industries. Hence, streamlining future efficiencies and innovative capabilities within aerospace, automotive systems, medical equipment, commercial and consumer electronics, by requiring fewer materials and steps to bring a product to market.

One hybrid ‘top-down’ pioneering piece of kit is The Replicator, a robotic RM system made by Cybaman Technologies, a British firm. The Replicator is an automated computer controlled system which employs both subtractive and additive processes to produce components. Developed specifically for high-speed machining of 3D metal components, it presents each facet of a workpiece, to the cutting tool in an automatic sequence. Tool-paths are generated using hyperMill CAD/CAM software and then converted into machine movement with the Cybaman postprocessor. 

The Replicator can be supplied with a Laser Powder Deposition heads for building-up additative metal parts directly from a CAD model. Then, using the optional non-contact scanning systems, parts can be imported into the CAD for subsequent replication within the system. The Replicator workstation houses a 6-Axes PC Based CNC Software. A positioning system comprising 3-Axes Articulated Robotic Manipulator and a Hi-Speed Machining Spindle mounted on 3-Linear-Axes; enabling complete 3D machining of functional components in a single set up.

And this is where it really gets going: a Dutch R&D enterprise known as TNO is exploring new hybrid RM techniques by integrating innovative arrays of multiple 3D deposition heads dispensing ceramics, metals or plastics onto multiple platforms travelling around a carousel in a continuous loop.

Imagine a large toy train with plinths mounted on top of each carriage, going around a long ovoid track. As each plinth goes by each deposition head station, a complete multimaterial products is made-up layer-by-layer (pens, shoes, eye-glasses, artist sculptures, play toys, etc).

This prototype represents a model for RM futures. With further development, in terms of deposition resolution, closer coupling of jets-head, finer and broader range of materials, it is paves the way for another kind of integrated manufacturing-production-assembly line. The goal is to integrate jetting and printing of viscous materials, patterning of photo-sensitive materials, stereolithography, RM metal and polymer structures, laser printing and structuring, thin-film deposition and patterning. And that just scratches the surface.

Now scale all this up to a size where it is possible to 3DP domestic refrigerators, food mixers, car parts, garden tools. And all this is on the way: Take LEPUS a fast digital light processing technology for the 3D printing of hearing aids; or Fast-ALD a spatial atomic layer deposition (ALD) technology for high-speed deposition of functional materials on rigid substrates such as passivation layers in crystalline solar cells, printed electronics, OLED, flexible displays and LED. Consequently Hybrid ‘Top-Down’ Direct Digital Manufacturing is about to tip, offering massive GigaMarket opportunities for the would-be innovator.
Manufacturing Renaissance: 
Ubiquitous Instant Production (Part-IV)
Meso Engineering: Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS).

‘Honey, I Shrunk the Kit!’ Begins a flippant metaphor of the miniature world of Microelectromechanical Systems or MEMS. A land of tiny machines so small you simply cannot see them with your bear eyes.

Imagine, if you will, peering at the common Dust Mite through a microscope. As you peer you see that the mite has one of its hairy-forelegs stood on the periphery of an even tinnier mechanical gear-wheel! Pan-out a little and view a playground of mechanical systems: intermeshing cantilevers and locks, pistons and wheels, cams and spinning gears resembling swings and round-abouts; with rack and pinions thrusting back and forth all at incredible speeds!

All this – believe it or not – describes the world of Meso-Scale engineering and is yet another promising advanced RM GigaMarket.

Meso-scale – which is not much talked about outside scientific or engineering laboratories – stands for the size range between micro (0.001mm) and nano (0.000,000,1mm); which is probably not much help for lay-reader. But believe it or not at that scale there is a lot of room. MEMS technology is a world of the very small: tiny functioning sub-assemblies and cute looking little components with dimensions much smaller than the thickness of a human hair.

Of course, you are going to ask ‘Way?’ What fuss and for what? Well to begin with, such assemblies are designed to sense and interact and feedback with the outside macro-world. Assemblies such as guidance systems, giro-servers, motion detectors, thermal meters, shutters, motors and servos that detect sub-microscopic dynamic ranges of sound, light, movement and vibration, whilst mechanically and electrically manipulating control systems across the nano-to-Meso-to-micro-scale and up!

Application examples include, accelerometers and motion detectors that are fitted in iPads for dynamic gamming modes, tri-axial accelerometer performance monitoring on snowboards competing in Olympic halfpipe contests, ultrasensitive hearing aid diaphragm mounting, retina injection contact lens mechanisms, 1000-thousandth of second lens shutter speed, and other Mission Impossible gadgets I cannot tell you about!

One of the most common materials employed is silicon; attractive in a wide variety of MEMS applications. It is an almost perfect Hookean material, meaning that when it is flexed there is virtually no hysteresis, hence almost no energy dissipation. This gives highly repeatable motion, suffers very little fatigue and can have service lifetimes in the range of trillions of cycles without breaking.

Medical science is benefiting enormously. Polymer-MEMS devices, for example, are widely used in cutting-edge surgery pathology. Constructed by submicron injection mouldings, embossing and stereolithography for application in microfluid devices such as disposable blood testing cartridges.

MEMS applications and the MEMS RM equipment itself, is a massively burgeoning industry as I write, that as high-end gadgets and tools shrink towards the invisible, is set to be pervasive and unstoppable GigaMarket.
Manufacturing Renaissance: Ubiquitous Instant Production
An Explosion in RM Applications.


I starkly recall putting together the above paper on the future of RM back in mid-2000s and thinking that this rather arcane, somewhat drab engineering lead industry, needed a dose of adrenalin. The picture I got back then from the RM media was one of a grey clouded outlook on the future (my perception of course).


No surprise then, that my seminar at TCT2006 was met will some glee, at last someone with a daring view. And so it continues. It is exciting to say that RM technology is the spark of lightening that is igniting a Manufacturing Renaissance. There are reports in the RM media almost every day of some amazing RM technology innovation or musing RM application. Right now there are remarkable examples of applications that begin to show the potential. Here is just small sample.


3DP apparel has been shown at Paris Fashion Week catwalk in. Designer Iris van Herpen, known for the her work with Björk on her ‘Biophilia’ album cover, presented her Haute Couture show ‘Voltage,’ featuring 2 3DP ensembles. Voltage also includes a dress designed in collaboration with architect Julia Koerner and printed by Materialise.

Orthodontics increasingly exploits fabricated dental prosthetics. The cost of lab work has become a major factor in dental restoration planning and therapy. So the speed of digital dentistry is not on a differentiator, it reduces the treatment end-price to the customer whilst improving quality. Simply put 3DP fabrication of functional and aesthetic impression for treatment cases that may have suffered chronic disease or physical damage. One example here is Compass3D, a leading provider of high definition scanning systems that puts together 3D image models of the inner-mouth. The system sends a model to, say, Stratasys additive Fused Deposition Modelling machine, feed in the appropriate materials and presto, a super-precision dental impression at rocket speed!

And by the way, would you like to print-out your new home? Yes, you read me right. 3DP your families new abode! Take a look at the work of the Industrial and Systems Engineering school at the University of Southern California, and this is now beginning to happen. Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis, has been working on such a system for last 15 years which does precisely that.

He calls the practice Contour Crafting. The aim of the technology, is to achieve  faster, more cost effective process, while using less energy than conventional building methods. It builds whatever model you configure in a CAD system, offering unparalleled design flexibility. The layered fabrication technology has great potential for automating the construction of whole structures as well as sub-components.

Using this process, a single house or a colony of houses, each possibly a different design, may be automatically constructed in a single run. Embedded in each house is all the conduits for electrical, plumbing and air-conditioning. The potential applications of this technology are far reaching including, but not limited to, applications in emergencies (earth quakes, tsunamis, forest fires), low-income (rural areas in emerging nations, housing shortage in develop countries), and commercial housing in difficult to build topography (rocky mountains, deserts, small plots in dense inner cities).

A Japanese firm, Fasotec is experiment-ing with MRI scans and 3DP models of six-to-nine month stage foetuses. From a medical standpoint, the replicant can lend a hand in predicting potential difficulties in the gestation and birthing process. Eager parents can now also show family and friends what their baby will look like before delivery. The 90mm solid model is encased in a transparent block in the shape of the mother's body. The service costs around $1000 and can come a miniature version that could be a nice adornment around the neck.

Omote, yet another Japanese firm, have produced a 3DP photo-booth. Sit in the cubicle and your likeness will be scanned then 3DP into a figurine you can take home.  You simply stand still and in position for about 15 minutes while a scanner records a full-body image. This data is modified for finer detail before the 3D colour-print is created. As yet detail is limited as gleaming jewellery and accessories are ruled out, hoop earrings, fluffy sweaters, chiffon, stripes, glasses and bags. Avoid pulling adventurous or dynamic poses on account of needing to remain stationary for 15 minutes. Single, double or group portraits in a number of different sizes, from about 8 inches high. All for around 21,000 yen.


Clearly, the space of possibilities for business innovation is being blown wide open by this technology. As Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya, chairman of the Warwick Manufacturing Group at Warwick University makes clear, ‘If you can build something, people get excited about making things. Then they go and set up companies!
Manufacturing Renaissance: Ubiquitous Instant Production (Part-VI)
Affordable Desktop Personal 3DP Systems.

It has been a long time coming, but affordable desktop Personal 3DP now offers the potential to move a lot of basic manufacturing into the home. I am, however, reminded by my technical godfathers – even with my strategic foresight capabilities – that full blown high speed, high resolution, multimaterial Personal 3DP is some way off.

My retort is, do not forget Kurzweil’s Accelerating Returns Curve, the classic Moore’s Law, and my Space of Innovation Possibilities equation: Pn=Na(Na -1)/2. Technological innovation influenced by information is getting faster and faster opening evermore possibility spaces.

Right now low-res 3DP systems for home utility, schools craft, youth/activity clubs, artists, hardcore hobbyists, and plethora of other front-line spaces are rolling out. Kids are now Sketching-up colourfully designed projects and printing them out for school projects. 3D artists are sculpturing geometric structures not achieved before. Small businesses are designing and making custom solution instantly. Nuevo-fashion houses, jewellery designer, not least domestic DIY and last minute ‘chores’ is happening now.

Think about it. Your washing machine door handle splits and breaks. Now no need to drive to the wholesaler or wait for a new handle to be delivered. Just download the 3D model from the vendors website, and print it out and fix! And this is happening now.

Here are some examples of affordable desktop personal 3DP systems. MakerBot Industries, a New York based outfit, produce the Replicator, aimed at the prosumer. Replicator 2.0 costs $2,199, prints to a resolution of 0.1mm.


Solidoodle is an affordable, Out-of-the-Box 3DP at only $499!  Solidoodle meets the needs of the majority of people via quality, affordability, and ease of use. Once the software is installed, using Google Sketchup a very intuitive modeling program, it can print objects at 100mm3. Slight limitations, such as overhangs and angles limited to about 60 degrees. But aside from that the possibilities are limited only by your imagination.


RepRap, Morgan aims to be the first manufacturer of 3DP selling under $100. The vision is to make it easy for anyone to build a 3D printer at home, without needing expensive materials, and hard to find components.


dilbert 3D Printing


One other tantalizing example here is AIO Robotics Zeus, the first all-in-one 3D office copier, combining additive and subtractive manufacturing capabilities into a single product: including 3DP, 3D scanner, copier and fax machine. Using HD camera pictures from a sweeping 3D laser, objects can be instantly captured in a digital 3D software model. Zeus is far from a Star Trek replicator, but one has to say it is yet another beginning. It is quite possible to digitally scan an object in the US, beam (on-line) the 3D model data to another Zeus (or indeed any other 3DP machine) the other side of the world. In fact, when the International Space Station has 3DP on board, beam it up there! Beam me up Scotty!!


Hence, such home, school and small company office 3DP will unleash people’s pent up creativity. Think of all the design and art and cut and past that goes on now on the personal computer via ubiquitous, freeware graphic design apps. When 3DP is everywhere – ‘BANG’ –  just wait!

From an industry growth prospective, the above lower-cost 3DP systems have begun to bring the physical third dimension objects into the mindset of the ordinary folk. Only a few years ago, if you were to bring up the subject at a dinner party or at the pub at the weekend, you would be met with silence and swift move on to other matters. Mark my words. Five years from this writing the subject will be common language at leisure, etc.


But the main point is the 3DP is an enabling technology that will ship countless new business concepts, that in themselves will burgeon to multiple GigaMarkets, and even in some whole new GigaIndustries.


Where we are today with affordable desktop personal 3DP is just some way into the early adopter stage in the classic market acceptance life-cycle. Just some way. We have some way to go before we hit the early majority stages, and years off before the mass majority. But it will come. But I have to remind you that the mass majority, is where the real volume and value for personal 3DP rests. And it will be phenomenal. GigaMarkets will be in abundance.

Manufacturing Renaissance: Ubiquitous Instant Production (Part-VII)
Retail 3DP: Going High Street Shopping?

3DP is now rolling-out on to the shopping mall, high street and eventually the convenience store. Where you can now purchase a 2D inkjet printer or uses a photocopier or buy printer cartages now, you will soon find a 3DP systems to purchases or make use of.

Look inside these stores and you will see many and multiple kind of 3DP kit. Some the size of a microwave oven, some the size of a large double refrigerator and a few the size of a small room. Most of the machines have viewing windows. Look inside each one of them and you will see a gross range of components being manufactured: a prosthetic leg part; a clown’s nose; a lamp shade, a toy car, and an assortment of gismos to strange to mention.

But that just scratches the surface. Until recently when engineers said 3DP shops they were referring to professional bureaus and prototyping specialists. However, the very first 3DP shops are opining now.

MakerBot, producer of the Replicator 3DP, have opened a 3D store in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, New York. It is a kind of bureau-cum-gallery-cum-showroom-cum-expertise knowledge centre. Displaying interesting examples of work done on site and the work of associates such a ‘Thingiverse,’ the open source website that enables users to down load their designs and display under the creative commons licensing agreement.

The distinction between incumbent and quite remote bureaus is that it is an immersive experience with real-world activities, such 3D designers and artisan designing and producing their wares on site. The customer can asked the simplest of naive questions. It exposes them to a future they can touch (a secret to selling future ideas and trends by the way!). Others are now opening.

Deezmaker, is the first 3D store on the West Coast of America, in Pasadena (where Idea factory is located). Deezmaker sells Kickstarter Bukobot for $600, selling other Brands of 3DP as well.

Staples wholesale are rolling out a 3DP service across the EU that enables designers, engineers or hobbyist to upload custom designs and pick up the finished objects at their neighbouring Staples Warehouse. Others high street outlets include Maplin, the well known British electronic component retailer; The Colour Company, the reprographics franchise; iMakr, who have put together the largest 2,500 sq.ft 3DP store thus far; and Replicator Warehouse in the historic Elephant and Castle, London.

All this is a bell weather toll for the future of advanced RM 3DP. Imagine if you will, 10 years hence? How many high street shopping precincts, malls and convince stores are there in the US alone? Now extend that to Europe, Asia and, well at this stage it boggles the mind. But again, Retail 3DP is yet another GigaMarket in the making.
Manufacturing Renaissance: Ubiquitous Instant Production (Part-VIII)
Future: General Electric’s Goal to Rapid Print an Entire Engine.

The Aerospace industry is one of the most complex technically, and dare I say material intensive industries in the world. Notwithstanding the onerous systems qualification and certification standards, the demands on material science and manufacturing capabilities is by far the most challenging (I’ve qualified kit to Boeing D1-60 specs). But it seems that RM R&D is now at the take off stage.

Michael Idelchik, head of advanced technologies at GE Global Research is much excited about RM’s future, “One day we hope to print out a complete engine.” Idelchik does not say whether he means a whole working fully integrated high performance jet turbine engine or even the hydrogen powered jet engine now in prototype development. But right at present GE is certainly talking ultra-complex components and sub-assemblies.

Mark Little is senior VP and CTO, GE Global Research Center. He says that GE is stanch to lead the next manufacturing revolution through innovative hardware, material and process advancements. They say that this transformation relies on collaboration with alliance partners and prolific, uncompromising innovators. GE’s goal is to organize and engage this ecosystem in meaningful ways and that takes industry to new heights.

Greg Morris, Strategy and Business Development for Additive Technologies at GE, indicates that he is always looking for innovative ways to animate great ideas. He is keen to tap the creativity and resources of GrabCAD and NineSigma’s major membership databases. Approaches, such as open source innovation and crowd-sourcing design concepts, are methodologies and strategies GE are accelerating the innovation process in conjunction with RM 3DP

In the medical equipment sector GE is already making headway. One example is a high precision transducer that sends and receives ultra-sound signal pulses that pick-up data to produce images from inside the human body. The gizmo contains micro-scale piezoelectronic structures constructed by machining tough blocks of ultra-fine-grain ceramic. The process is slow, expensive and painstaking. Most of all it is expensive. GE has developed an additive RM system that prints the fine tolerance transducer significantly improving price-performance of the device.

In response, GE competitor Rolls Royce are now spearheading a project called MERLIN. The venture’s aim is to reduce the environmental impact of air-transport by means of additive RM by achieving near 100 percent material utilisation in component manufacture. Current ‘buy to fly’ ratios result in massive amounts of waste, along with toxic chemical solvents and expensive component tooling. RM will drastically reduce emissions across the life-cycle of aerospace components. Light-weighting and performance improvement of parts will result in reduced fuel consumption and reduced emissions. The strategy is to develop high-value, disruptive AM technologies capable of step changes in manufacturing performance which uphold interests in the aerospace engine manufacturing field.

And if you think about – and I hazard a guess – if one looks, at say, a complete airborne worthy commercial long-haul aircraft today, a lot of material has had to be subtracted to make each component that make-up the whole craft! One wonders how much? I wonder if a whole (or two) aircraft is either in the recycle-bin, or landfill, or even gas polluting our fresh air?

GE’s grasp on additive manufacturing is part of its sustained hegemony in advanced manufacturing. GE is the world’s largest user of RM technologies, especially in metals, with a comprehensive, high investment additive manufacturing facility in Cincinnati, Ohio, with a universal team of 600 engineers, across 21 sites.
Manufacturing Renaissance: Ubiquitous Instant Production (Part-VIIII)
Rapidly Manufacturing the End of Abject Material Poverty.

It makes one wonder, with such coming technological might and capabilities, what will this – let us face  – extraordinarily cleaver know-how and equipment do for people that are unlikely to ever get on RM lean material aeroplane. What could RM do for poverty? Well here is just one of many ideas.

When ultra low-cost portable 3DPs – they are coming  – that are solar/wind/battery-powered, and then sold in emerging economies; especially within regions that have little means to production, the machines will not only save 100s of millions of innocent people’s lives every year, it will be an enabling technology that can take literally billions people at the bottom of the economic pyramid beyond subsistence, and into a position where they can build their lives.

Such a GigaProduct would need to be designed to work reliably, durably, with ease-of-use and ease-of-maintenance; capable of being dragged, kicked, dropped and vibrated through all the kinds of terrain, ambient elevated temperatures, extreme humidity, dust storms, torrential rain, flooding and mud often in war torn quite angry environments, and still work. The so-called LifeMaker system will need an inbuilt computer that stores embedded SLA files that can encode for geometries such as basic building tools and functional structures. Input feedstock will have range across ultra-strong, super-tough, flexible and all weathers resistant.

As you will read in chapter-20, RM is not merely about manufacturing performance per say, there is tremendous potential to relieve poverty at the bottom of the fiscal pyramid. Where billions of people crave for tools that can enable them to climb out of such dearth. The demand here will be quite literally 100s of millions of units worldwide.

Clearly, today, the cost of personal desktop 3DP systems are prohibitive for the poor. But again in chapter-21 I will outline a company called Opens Source Ecology that are beavering away at bringing about such 3DPs and other get out the hole tools at a price-performance the bottom of the pyramid might just well access. Much more in C20!

RM GigaMarket Potential.

Clearly, the additive RM 3DP paradigm is an exceptionally rare kind of innovation. A MetaInnovation, I would say. One that enables the creation of fundamentally new business models, bring to life products that would have been impossible in the past, or services that are wholly unique, or indeed, entire mew markets that have not existed before. Such MetaInnovations also enable the transformation and renewal of incumbent industries; which ultimatly has a positive-sum affect on economies at-large. As a result, the RM 3DP paradigm is set to explode GigaMarkets on an untold scale. But what is afoot and beyond?

One prized voice in this respect is Terry Wohlers: Don of rapid product development and advanced manufacturing performance taken as a whole. He is President of Wohlers Associates, Inc., an independent consulting firm founded almost 30 years ago. In 2007, more than 1,000 industry professionals from around the world selected Wohlers as the #1 most influential person in rapid product development and additive manufacturing. In the Wohlers Report 2012 he forecast that RM industry will reach $3.1 Billion Worldwide by 2016; and recently reported that the markets will surge to $10.8 billion by 2021 from $2.2 billion last year.

In a McKinsey Global Institute Report, Disruptive Technologies: Advances that will Transform Life, Business, and the Global Economy,’ by ~2025 the research forecasts the total global size to be amid $230 billion and $550 billion per annum for the actual RM tools and materials themselves. The market for complex, low-volume, highly customizable parts, could be $770 billion by then. It also considers the consumer purchase of 3D printing kit which could run between $100 billion to $300 billion through the benefit of significant reduced cost and the value of customisation.

But what I like most about the report is that McKinsey includes the value of the actual enabling capabilities and outputs: the revolutionary innovative business models, the breakthrough product concepts and original services that will be made by this advanced kit. Global sales emanating from the RM paradigm is set to reach $4-trillion in sales by 2025. And gauged from the day Chuck Hull  lunched his Stereolithography machine, this will have taken a mere 35 years: 0-to-4 trillion-in-35y! Indeed, such a MetaInnovation is very rare.

Hence, the new Manufacturing Renaissance, driven in part by RM will not merely mean multiple new GigaMarkets, but thousands of GigaMarkets amounting to TeraIndustries with high-end GigaProfits.

The Rapid Manufacturing Arms Race and Global Economic Competition.

It might be clear now that both Advanced and Emerging Rapid Manufacturing Technology is the next competitive weapon not just in manufacturing, but also performance innovation in services, education, healthcare, and host of other industries. But the one musing issue is the burgeoning RM competition between the rapidly emerging nations and the titan, yet mature EU and US.

For a start, American creativity, ingenuity and the exploitation advanced RM technology worries China. The adoption of RM on the scale the Chinese could muster must worry the US as well. The Chinese are waking up to RM as a threat to its manufacturing capabilities. Because the US are not only tinkering with the idea of combing back manufacturing to the United States to achieve close to the customer advantages, the Yanks are already on the ground and running.

In response to this face off, China has at least 4 dedicated RM R&D centres in the cities of Beijing, Huazhong, Tsinghua and Xi’an. The Asian Manufacturing Association announced a in May 2013 that they will invest 200 million yuan (~$33 million) in deploying RM centres across China.

But I must say that it is, under the giant competitive context of China versus US, easy to forget the emerging nations. India now has the beginnings of an automotive industry, what with Tata Motor’s headquarters and India’s F1 Sahara Force team. RM in India is a small market, but rearing its head. Israeli RM printer maker Objet recently married American Stratasys, making a market cap of $3 billion. And the deal in Brazil with Compass RM offering Stratasys systems tells that the Latino advanced manufacturing genie is out of the bottle.

As for Europe, the future of prosperity will not only be built around high-technology GigaIndustries or as-yet-undiscovered countries; but by also strengthening its traditional powerhouse: manufacturing. This is not just my belief, but of the European Commission, which has nominated ‘Industrial Policy’ as its EU2020 flagship initiative to enhance European competitiveness (re chapter-11).

Emerging and Advanced Rapid Manufacturing mirrors the new European Industrial Policy’s dual focus on promoting both innovative production processes and products. In terms of production, actions to facilitate coordination of global value chains in key sectors such as materials, chemicals are essential, a fact recognised in the Industrial Policy. Hence the dislocation and flexible production of RM is an instrumental partner.

Considering the contents of this chapter alone, if what I say is the case - and it is - the potential market and impact for RM goes way beyond any one could reliably and reasonably forecast right now. And that works on three levels:

First, at this level, the Industrial Renaissance is about the ongoing success and growth of the RM Industry. About an extraordinary innovative industry, with many exciting and increasingly novel additive RM systems and materials in the pipeline. About the capability to rapidly produce Escher-like geometric structures giving astonishing component performance. The unleashing of the super-enhanced ability to design counterintuitive morphologies that break long held engineering rules. Concerning highly efficient, greener designs with near-zero waste material. It is about the fact that the RM industry has become an a hypercompetitive international GigaMarket in the blink of an eye. And it is about the fact that today a clear exponential market and technological growth path can be empirically drawn right out to a projected 4-trillion dollar synthesis within another 15 years. Astonishing!

Second, RM, at all levels, is one of the most potent enabling, inspiring and energizing commercial innovation freedom fighters there is today. Now unleashing 10s of thousands of start-ups in the US and EU as I write. A power to open the space of innovation possibilites far beyond the potency of even the most deft supercomputing graphical modelling software. As the above makes clear, RM enables enigmatic business models thought impossible 10 years ago; igniting first to the world markets and industries, built on a shoestring. It makes it possible for the single-minded start-up entrepreneur to make her dreams come true and ignite as yet untold new and exciting careers for people. It enables businesses to start and build RM robots that automatically build quality, affordable homes a in remote rural out-backs.

But the third level, after all is said and done, is the most significant of all. Head-to-head multiway, international competition between nation-states developing and applying RM technologies to ramping-up manufacturing productivity, will be one of the hottest economics bouts of the 21st century. Think about it!

The winners will be the nations that (1) scaffold investment at a proportion to maintain competitive RM breakthroughs; (2) support the application of inventmeant to the most astute and shrewd RM R&D programmes; (3) encourage the commercialisation of new RM technologies at a magnitude above international competition; (4) incentivize and expedite the application of the technology in home markets directly and efficiently; (5) paradoxically promote the export of new RM equipment, (6) be strategic enough to have RM technologies waiting in the wings that will continue to disrupt global markets and give home advantage; and (7) campaign and incentivize a national moon shot programme that can truly achieve instant production technology.

Because the nation that achieves all seven goals on a sustainable basis, will not only be the country with the most advanced and innovative RM technology - with all the commercial and productive economic benefits that come with it - it will be that nation that will be responsibility for ultimatly and finally ridding this plant of abject material poverty forever. Go figure!