Instant Manufacturing Manifesto

All this is irrelevant. In the future we’re just going to be heads in jars utilizing virtual products in the metaverse via our wetware implants.

The only problem here is that shipping and storing have become incredibly efficient. Amazon’s 3rd party warehousing and fulfillment service is unbelievably cheap, and scalable (you’re only paying for the product you’re actually storing, instead of rent on a warehouse that is always either too big or too small). If you’re selling anything that can be sent via UPS, and you’re doing less than about $20 million a year, you have almost no reason to try to do your own warehousing. And their shipping rate is exactly the same to all 48 states, so under that setup, there is no point at all in having distributed manufacturing facilities.

Scott, that’s pretty awesome Amazon has a service like that. I wonder if there might be issues doing that in other places around the world? A system like a crude product printer would be good for places like Africa with weak infrastructure

The coolest part of what a product printer could be, for me, is that there wouldn’t be 1000s of the same exact product, every product could be unique and customized, and maybe changing the needs for warehousing. Maybe this would be a use for the generative forms stuff, to throw a little random personality into products

This is true, years ago when I was designing products for a large razor company while at Evo Design, we toured their facilities. The interesting this is that all of the disposable razors were made in the US because it was all automated, all of it. Really cool rotating dual shot family molds, spools of metal flowing into machines and coming out as mile long blades to be trimmed later, electrostatic hoppers pulling the handles upright so cartridges could be popped on… it was amazing and this was a decade ago. But, all of the expensive razors with replaceable cartridges were manufactured overseas because they had a lot more parts and metal handles that had to be assembled with rubber inserts and what not. The expensive part of the process that kept it in Asia was all of the hand labor required to put those non-disposable razors together.

Anyway not sure were I was going with all that… we won’t need razors when we are plugged into the Matrix to cg’s point :wink:

Good points. But keep in mind a company like Amazon can offer cheap shipping because they squeeze the heck out of these 3rd party warehouses. Our company operates a warehouse where we have to do drop shipping, and it is no picnic. A company like ours would benefit greatly if our products could be produced on demand, only a few miles away from the customer who buys them.

The example of the fully automated razor production Yo gives is another good point to explore. We import so many goods from China because of cheap labor (which is just plain wrong on many levels - if you’ve traveled there you know what I mean). If the instant manufacturing process could take away 90% of the labor involved to make a new product, and also greatly reduced the costs for tooling, storing and shipping, it seems to me that the moment instant production can match the price or become cheaper than the current mass production methods, it would be too enticing to pass up. I know thats a big if, but If you compare an average home color printer to the daisy wheel or dot matrix of the 1980’s, I think imagining a 3D super printer over the next 10-20 years isn’t a total pipe dream.

Also, fellow CAD geeks, how great would it be to have the entire DNA-type code of your product sitting on a server, waiting for any changes or updates? If you get customer complaints about a certain product you could fix the problem and hit “refresh”, and all future versions of the product would be updated.

Lets not discount the reduced environmental impact either. Producing a product as its needed with greater efficiency means less impact from cradle to grave. What if the material these printers used was highly recyclable? Could my old scratched up sunglasses be melted down and turned into new sunglasses that same afternoon at Lens Crafters? :smiley:

Any thoughts on specialized parts place in all this… I mean, childrens toys, or moderately simple electronics are one thing, but you’d have to have some pretty amazing resolution to be able to RP a razor blade (that’s sharp). I’d guess there are a lot of components like that too, processors, springs, etc…

I suppose specialty parts could be warehoused and shipped, but if you had to standardize parts maybe design and innovation could suffer in this kind of system. Until asteroid eating replicators get invented at least

Anybody ever read The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson?

The book explores a time/universe where nano-technology and rapid manufacturing have advanced to the point where users produce items on demand in their home and have a connection to “the feed” (build material) much like we currently have an internet connection.

-Stephenson also wrote Snowcrash which is pretty well known in Geek circles.
Cryptonomicon is his best though.

Any IDers looking for a good book to read… start with Snowcrash.

interesting, In April 2009 I put this up on my website:

The project never went anywhere, but I think it’s the same idea as being discussed here. It’s a shame I can’t find the article that inspired it but a search on atom prototyping revealed this:
and the reaction here:

In terms of finishing etc, the same 3d printing machine or a secondary machine could employ finishing facilities etc. I heard that formula 1 teams use RP machines that build parts with a metal content. If its the case of creating blades, rather than printing finer and finer resolutions, just have a computer arm run a quick pass with a polishing tool to create the edge. :wink:

The Diamond Age is being made into a SyFy series by George Clooney. Should be fun. Agree that Cryptonomicon is his best.

Funny, I learned that he’s a folk-hero amongst Libertarians. He refuses to comment, but I’ve always seen his books (and the cyberpunk genre) as the dystopian inevitability of Libertarianism and super-capitalism. The fact that Clooney (an ardent Liberal) is producing it seems to support this. Curious.

I’ll check it out, sounds like what is typically on my nightstand.

I read a similar novel not to long ago where everyone had “fabs” in their garage and they could make anything, from Lear jets, to big macs from some mystery substrate, but everyone only got a certain allowance of the substrate, which of course became a black market commodity. The smart guys would grow all their own food and make their own clothes, reducing their need for the substrate allowance, so they could print vintage Ferraris to drive in! Such a geek book.

The fact that you can create objects that are impossible with injection molding is something else that’s fun to think about. You could transition from an open cell foam pattern to a solid spring and back again. A whole range of products could be made from the same substance since you would have more control over it.

We can probably get this going faster if we start listing military uses. Barrels of liquid that can be rapidly formed into guns and other equipment would prove handy at a remote base right?

Break us off a chunk of that defense budget! :stuck_out_tongue:

In fact the military is already using portable rapid manufacturing to repair vehicles temporarily in the field while waiting for a true replacement part… and that is all I can say about that at this time…

Developing parts that could not be molded another way is one area this could be interesting. Developing parts with flexible geometries (like living hinges to the power of 10( or chain linked interlocked parts could be really cool. I’ve seen some studies around this that are very promising… and that is all I can about that at this time :wink:

If I was an astronaut on Mars I would definitely want this ability.

I just spotted a black helicopter. This thread is done!!!

15 years ago our Indy Lights race transporter had a little mill and lathe in the back for making parts at the track. I would be surprised if all the major forward bases in Iraq and Afghanistan didn’t have pretty capable CNC machining/RP capabilities. You can’t exactly Fedex replacement parts to Kabul.

This book has the best description of the kind of manufacturing systems you are talking about. 1986. The estimation of build rates for objects is quite interesting.
Engines of Creation 2.0: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology - Updated and Expanded
K. Eric Drexler

Can read it online here.

“The Diamond Age” by Neal Stephenson has descriptions of manufacturing that are amazing.

Whatever the interface looks like on this machine of the future, please keep Kai’s Power Tools in mind.

Man, your career is an inspiration Mr. DiTullo. Cool shoes, cool trucks, black ops… where does it end? :astonished:

Ha, LOL, I’ve worked for places with good relationships with all the RP companies. They have some interesting treatments at zcorp that impregnate the prints to harden them. The parts aren’t pretty, but you could say print a specific gear from a huge database of parts, install it, and let it limp home until a part can be CNC’d or shipped. Cool stuff… Makes total sense for racing once they can get the physical properties up and the tolerances tighter.

Have you checked out Shapeways? They’re kind of using the Amazon marketplace model. Anybody can set up a store to sell whatever Shapeways can make. I believe they’re trying to start a network of RP shops to do the building. Somehow I got on their mailing list. It’s mostly jewelry artists & chotchkes, but it’s easy to see it getting much bigger.

Could be interesting… certainly would need to start with simple products that require a certain amount of expertise to design correctly, but have a one part manufacturing process. I’m thinking flatware, barware, many tabletop items. Imagine a Nambe or Umbra that was set up to use only RP processes. They could have designer competitions to get placed in their online catalog and print to order.