“Digital Craft:” The Next American Industrial Revolution?

The New York Times recently ran an article and the above video describing how the emergence of 3-D printing is changing US business.  Most of the piece focused on how the emergence of new cheap 3-D printers means that it takes much less time and money for entrepreneurs to develop prototypes of new products.  But it turns out that the implications of this technology go far beyond the prototype stage:

A California start-up is even working on building houses. Its printer, which would fit on a tractor-trailer, would use patterns delivered by computer, squirt out layers of special concrete and build entire walls that could be connected to form the basis of a house.

It is manufacturing with a mouse click instead of hammers, nails and, well, workers. Advocates of the technology say that by doing away with manual labor, 3-D printing could revamp the economics of manufacturing and revive American industry as creativity and ingenuity replace labor costs as the main concern around a variety of goods.

“There is nothing to be gained by going overseas except for higher shipping charges,” [Scott Summit, a co-founder of Bespoke] said. . . .

“We are moving from handicraft to digital craft,” [Charles Overy the founder of LGM] said.

Pretty exciting stuff.  About 15 years ago, the Economist ran a piece on how the spread of modularized manufacturing was paving the way for companies to provide “mass customization” for consumers.  Within a few years, companies like Dell and others were thriving (at least then) using that approach.

3-D printing could be the next generation of technological innovation that will remake American industry.  We’ll see.

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