3-D printers will reinvent craft

Artesian 3D additive factories are set to reimagineer manufacturing as19th century craft-in action but connected digitally customers globally.

There’s much conjecture about which strands of the 3-D finished goods market will develop fastest in the next two years.

Reimagineer believes the high-value market will blossom this year with 3-D printing industry popping up in hundreds of traditional craft areas which suffered when business was lost to Chinese mass manufacturers.

3d Printing Revolution

A 3D printer technician ahead of the action

The technician-craftsmen at the business end of this revolution will become web performers via Skype sees a return of experiential value customers lost with crafts’ demise to machines and cheap Chinese labour.

In an artists extensions of the selfie everyone can have a  personalized likeness of themselves as they are, were or want to be crafted in a hi-tech artesian performance. Now, you’d pay extra for that? Though you do lose the surprise of opening the box but you also know what to expect and what you paid for.

In Makers, Wired editor and bestselling author Chris Anderson reveals that a new industrial revolution is under way. Today’s entrepreneurs, using open-source design and 3-D printing, are employing micro-manufacturing techniques to create a tsunami of products in small batches, often customized for specific customers at higher margins.

Factories where up to 10,000 piece are made before demand is considered mass market and returns to manufacturing in mega-factories knowing demand is proved.

Additive manufacturing, more commonly known as 3D printing, is a process of producing three-dimensional solid objects from digital designs. 3D printers work like your inkjet printer at home but, instead of ink, they deposit the desired material. Ranging from plastics to concrete and chocolate, in successive layers slowly to build up a 3D object.

Makers The new industrial revolution book by Chris Anderson

Makers: The New Industrial Revolution – by Chris Anderson, editor of Wired magazine

The recent media hype can make 3D printing feel like a new technology but it has in fact been slowly evolving since the mid-1980s, although its true potential has only hit the headlines now that a dramatic drop in the printer cost has led to consumer models selling for less than £250. Combined with the increasing availability of low-cost 3D scanners, it may not be long before consumers readily have the technology to scan any off-the-shelf product and print a replica at home. Of course that raises a lot of other issues – not least from an IP viewpoint.

The BRITISH Business Secretary Vince Cable announced that the Technology Strategy Board and Research Councils are investing £8.4m to help boost UK businesses to develop new 3D printing solutions.

18 innovative projects across a wide range of industries will receive funding, including projects to develop bespoke 3D cranio-facial implants for head trauma patients, make personalised insoles for your shoes, and improve the processes for 3D printed gold jewellery.

The IPO is taking a particular interest in 3D printing because it raises a number of issues in relation to IP protection. Of course this isn’t the first time that this has happened with new technological advances – over the years a variety of opportunities and challenges have arisen for IP creators, owners and users alike from the development of the camera and phono records through to the evolution of the internet.

It is clear that, what was once a science-fiction fantasy, may soon be reality. Can 3D printing really be a game-changer? We will have to wait and see. But maybe next time I clumsily smash things at home, I will just click a button and print a replacement on demand.

Courses for 3-D printing in trade institutes, technical colleges and Community education centres are popping up in a city near you. Because of the commercial potential and unlimited possibilities these courses will be an industry in themselves with specialisation in subject areas quickly becoming available.

pie chart of 3d printing applicationsSimilar IP debates can be expected to develop as 3D printing hits the mass market, although this time the implications for copyright, design right, trade marks and patents means the legal framework is even more diverse. As the cost of 3D printers gets ever closer to that of household inkjet printers, one of the biggest potential IP issues surrounding 3D printers is in the manufacture of items for personal use, especially given the current private use exemptions under patent law and design law.

To this end, later this year the IPO will be looking at 3D printing and its potential to change how we learn, create and manufacture. Analysts within the Patent Informatics team will be looking at the current 3D printing patent landscape and whether UK businesses are well positioned to benefit from this potentially disruptive technology. 3D Printing is also a key part of the Economics, Research and Evidence’s research programme for 2013-2014.

The IP system certainly has an integral role to play as the 3D printing industry evolves. The IPO is keen to lay the foundations so that UK businesses can benefit from this emerging technology as it is likely to transform manufacturing in the next decade. In recent months, the media coverage of 3D printing seems to be increasing by the week with bespoke 3D printing solutions being used in all sorts of weird and wonderful ways including exo-skeletal casts for broken bones, dresses, meat, aircraft, prosthetic limbs for animals, food for astronauts, bionic ears, sugarcraft for baking, and the steering wheel for the 1000mph Bloodhound SSC, as well a more controversial use in the production of 3D printed guns.


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