The Maker Movement and Its Implication

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The Maker Movement and Its Implication

We've been discussing the exciting potential of 3D printing in Trends for many years. Our 2006 analysis titled, The Era of Absolutely Fabulous Manufacturing Is Coming, provided one of the earliest looks at this new technology.1

For our most recent reports on this subject, please refer to Bio-Nanoprinting: Digitizing the Language of Life,2 and Nanoprinting and Bio-Printing, the Next Frontier3 in our January 2013 and October 2012 issues, respectively.

Our focus in this latest analysis is on how 3D printing technology will impact the manufacturing sector and the overall economy. Specifically, "will the ability to print parts and entire products disrupt established manufacturers?" And, "will it provide an opportunity for entrepreneurs and small niche producers to compete with big corporations?"

The answers to both questions is a resounding yes if you believe the argument laid out in Makers: The New Industrial Revolution,4 by former Wired editor-in-chief Chris Anderson. Anderson's book promises that "the collective potential of a million garage tinkers and enthusiasts is about to be unleashed upon the economy, driving a new age of American manufacturing."

Makers: The New Industrial Revolution

Our response: Well, maybe. Make no mistake, the impact of 3D printing on manufacturing will be big, but it won't be quite as big as Anderson imagines it will be.

Before we get to that, let's outline the parts of Anderson's vision with which the Trends editors agree.

  • In the United States and in other developed nations, high labor costs have made traditional manufacturing so expensive that companies have been forced to outsource production to off-shore producers in countries such as China, Indonesia, and Bangladesh.
  • As a result, millions of American manufacturing jobs have been lost. According to the Economic Policy Institute, 2.1 million U.S...

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