How the Digital Manufacturing Revolution Can Benefit Everyone

How the Digital Manufacturing Revolution Can Benefit Everyone

From Davos, HP’s head of 3D printing explores ways to democratize the technology that will change our world.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2018 - 8:20am

CAMPAIGN: HP Inc. | Human Rights


By Stephen Nigro, President of 3D Printing Business, HP Inc. — January 25, 2018

As global leaders recently gathered to discuss some of humanity’s most pressing issues at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, conversations and debates surrounding the accelerating digital transformation of business and society were among the most impassioned. Much has changed since the idea of a 4th Industrial Revolution was first introduced at WEF two years ago, and the world has moved ever-closer to a seismic shift that promises to fundamentally change every aspect of human society and the global economy. In fact, the World Economic Forum has estimated that the total value of this digital transformation across all industries could reach $100 trillion over the next 10 years. 

Emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, blockchain, big data, advanced robotics and 3D printing will be catalysts for the 4thIndustrial Revolution. We’re already seeing how 3D printing is reinventing the $12 trillion global manufacturing industry by reducing costs, localizing production, shortening supply chains, reinventing product design, creating new markets and enabling customization at wide scale. It’s changing the way businesses think about how they conceive, design, produce and distribute products, and also promises to democratize both the manufacturing and design process. 

So what needs to be done to create a participatory digital manufacturing future with benefits for all? 

Create the Future Workforce

It all starts with training the next generation of workers to power this transformation now and into the future. According to the World Economic Forum’s recent report on the Future of Jobs, the 4th Industrial Revolution will create a higher-skilled, tech-savvy, global workforce equipped to support and advance new technologies and business models. And it won’t be limited to retraining existing workers. According to new research from HP and A.T. Kearney, 3 to 5 million new jobs could be created within the next ten years in the U.S. alone. The need for this new breed of engineers, designers and other skilled professionals who “think in 3D” will become increasingly urgent as the adoption of 3D printing technology accelerates across industries. Investment in educational programs that focus on training the new digital workforce, as well as the funding of educational institutions to for research in advancing 3D technology, will be vital in developing the innovation leaders of tomorrow.

Make 3D Printing Technology More Accessible

Although this transformation is accelerating at global scale, the innovation that drives it needs to happen on the local level to grow and become mainstream. For example, “service bureaus,” independent local providers of 3D printing services, make advanced manufacturing technology increasingly accessible to small businesses by reducing economic barriers to entry that had previously been prohibitive.

Leading service bureaus like Forecast3D, Proto Labs and GoProto now provide access to manufacturing-grade 3D printing services for small businesses and entrepreneurs, serving to democratize the technology and drive innovation forward.

And larger businesses are following suit, helping to decentralize manufacturing and bringing it physically closer to the consumers that it serves, enabling the on-demand production of customized goods. The days of salespeople having to check the stock room to see if they have your size will be over. In the fully-digitalized future, your size will be available everywhere, always.

Unlock Economic Opportunities                    

If 3D printing is going to transform the $12 trillion global manufacturing industry, it must surpass the economics of traditional manufacturing. The tangible economic benefits of 3D printing are becoming reality and offer manufacturers unprecedented competitive advantages if they embrace it now. 

According to HP’s new research, $4 trillion to $6 trillion of the global economy will be disrupted and redistributed in the next 10 years due to the accelerating growth of 3D manufacturing, with new revenue potential of $600 billion to $900 billion annually in the U.S. alone. The economic advantage of 3D printing is already materializing among the world’s largest industries, with heavy industry, automotive, consumer products, healthcare and aerospace holding great initial potential to be transformed. 

Of particular interest, as conversations around electric vehicles intensify around the world, 3D printing technology can help auto manufacturers produce new parts which are lighter and more practical in electric vehicles as they move away from the combustion engine. According to The Boston Consulting Group, EV’s will command half of the global auto market by 2030 — only a dozen years away!   

Rethink ‘Innovation’

When it comes to transforming entire industries, innovation is not exclusive to just technology and products. It’s also about creating new business models and partnerships, paving new routes to market, and developing robust and sustainable ecosystems that benefit all participants.

That thinking inspired the creation of new “open platforms” for the development of 3D printing materials — one where tens of thousands of advanced materials will be created for future products. At HP, we’re confident that the future of manufacturing will depend on such open ecosystems of strategic, cross-industry collaborators who share a commitment to driving innovation and market participation for all, because no one entity can do it alone. This broad new 3D ecosystem will grow to encompass materials producers, software developers, reseller networks, local service bureaus, educational institutions, research labs, labor unions, government agencies, and of course the millions of companies and billions of people it will serve.   

I was honored to speak about these and other related issues with so many business and government leaders this week in Davos. In partnership between industries, nations and citizens across the globe, we can unlock the great promise of the world’s digital future so it benefits all.

For more on WEF 2018 and HP's thought leadership, read CEO Dion Weisler's 3 Things Global Leaders Need To Do Prepare For The Next Big Economic Shift on