It's been a while since I have blogged about the revolution in manufacturing taking place, but this has not been because there have been no new stories, but rather, being a one man show, there is simply so much to talk about that sometimes selecting what articles to talk about is difficult, but this one I have to comment about. The article was shared by a regular reader here, Mr. G. R, and it contains what to my mind are some rather prescient comments, which tend to confirm an analysis I made concerning the phenomenon of 3D printing (or as it is also sometimes known, additive manufacturing and distributed manufacturing) and the "alchemical" transformation of human society and culture that it portends:
Now, pay close attention to these initial paragraphs:
Divergent Microfactories made a name for itself this week with a twin announcement of its supercar prototype and the business platform underlying the car. It's all about 3D printing and the claims are impressive.
The company announced they have built the world's first 3D-printed supercar Blade. The total weight of the car is 1,388 pounds; it goes from 0 to 60 in about two seconds. Engine? The car uses a 700 HP, 4-cylinder turbocharged internal combustion engine fueled by compressed natural gas or gasoline.
The other part of the announcement was its business intention and technology platform. Divergent Microfactories CEO Kevin Czinger has introduced the company's plan to "dematerialize and democratize" car manufacturing.
His goal is not to have his own company name behind volume manufacturing but to put the platform in the hands of small entrepreneurial teams around the world. He would like to make a difference in offering a sustainable manufacturing platform for the future. Czinger thought the result could be "a renaissance in car manufacturing." They could set up their own microfactories and build their own cars and, eventually, other large complex structures.
That way, innovation could be made affordable; the technology could help reduce health and environmental impacts of traditional manufacturing.
Forbes said, "Czinger isn't committed to doing all the manufacturing himself. He says his new company, Divergent Microfactories, is more interested in licensing its 3-D-printing technology to a new generation of relatively small automakers around the world."
Talking about the business plan, Czinger said,: "we will provide the necessary tools for people to set up a microfactory, and the technologies to allow them to build vehicles. We will also sell a limited number of high performance vehicles that will be manufactured in our own microfactory." (Emphasis added)
In other words, the company is not manufacturing a car, but rather, the three-D distributed manufacturing technologies and schematics to manufacture a car. Think of it as a kind of "Ford" or "Mercedes" dealership that, is a manufacturing franchise rather than a traditional dealership. Gone are the showrooms and vast lots of new cars(and hence massive overhead and insurance costs). The "showroom" might consist simply of a small office (or website) with a variety of plans to choose from: a few clicks of a button for the type and size of engine, the color of exterior and interior appointments, and so on, and one might then be informed of how long it will take to "print" your new vehicle. "Ms. so-and-so, your new vehicle will be ready for you this afternoon after 2PM."
Of course, we're a long way off from that now, but by the end of the century, I strong suspect that we will see something like this idea transforming the planet and in the process reducing costs(for as I said, no need for large lots and showrooms with massive overhead, insurance costs, not to mention transportations costs for all those cars being shipped from Woflsburg or Yokohama or wherever to your local lots). The technology will not be limited to cars: imagine airplanes, ship-building, and building construction, not to mention your local celestial dune-buggy shop on the Moon or Mars, and you get the picture. The volume of materialsi shipments to local and regional supply points will dramatically increase, and I suggest that this will push the need for railroad shipments through the roof, with local distribution from railheads being handled by semi-trucks and lorries.
So why this push for distributed manufacturing? There is in part, as I've long suspected and blogged about, a hidden military purpose to it: distributed manufacturing does away with the need for large industrial plants, while preserving the ability to manufacture precision equipment and defense systems. The large "Krupp", "Skoda", and "Vickers" works of yesteryear - huge targets - will simply be gone eventually, and hence dealing crippling economic blows by bombardment will be more difficult to achieve. This entails a predictive aspect, if in fact these types of considerations are true, for one should expect to see the major military powers begin to push for the increase of distributed manufacturing as a matter of official policy. The race, in short, will be not between who can industrialize the biggest and fastest, but rather, who can acquire the entire technology tree of distributed manufacturing, and actually distribute it throughout its territories, the fastest. And yes, while we're at the high octane speculation, we must mention the possibilities of this type of distributed manufacturing for biological, chemical, and nuclear and thermonuclear weapons, a prospect that surely the various global oligarchies have probably already thought about, and with which they will have to contend.
So you can add the "distributed manufacturing race" to the "new space race" and "new Cold War" and armaments race, for the military, economic, and political power of the future will depend upon it.
See you on the flip side...