Custom Manufacturing Just In Time
At first glance, one might think that fast prototyping technologies (e.g. 3D printing) would be a competitive advantage for smaller companies, but largest goods-producing companies who already utilize contract manufacturing (e.g. Apple, Samsung, etc.) will benefit by far the most, as they can evaluate multiple designs and production methods in much shorter time, thanks to the rapid prototyping capabilities of their entire supply chain. In short, larger the company, larger the diversity of quality and cost intersections. Contract manufacturers and design houses will compete with ever higher quality and lower cost overall to become the supplier of choice to leading goods-producers. Lower risk and higher reward for large companies. Higher risk and lower reward for their subcontractors.
- Cycle time for variant design and production will be considerably reduced.
- Production costs for dies will become affordable for new companies.
- Limited special editions of products with exotic features catering to nische market will be possible with least investments
- Industrial products will have extended life, as spares can be easily produced using advanced technologies
- Established brands will face competition as star ups can produce products economically.
- Lile softwares, hardware products will be offered free for testing by companies to attract future clients.
The biggest hurdle I currently see is cost. For high-volume products that require tight tolerances and/or substrates that are difficult to manufacture, 3D printing is currenlty cost prohitibitive. There's work being done in ALM for metals, but as of now it's been difficult to achieve the same mechanical properties and resolution. It will be interesting to see how this can become a viable alternative to subtractive manufacturing methods for metals.