The Great Disruption: A Book Review

By Chrissie Cluney December 05, 2016

Are you ready for the 3D printing manufacturing revolution?

That is precisely what Rick Smith and Mitch Free, authors of “The Great Disruption – Competing and Surviving in the Second Wave of the Industrial Revolution” (Thomas Dunne Books, 2016) say will occur in the near future, mostly because it has already begun in some major companies around the world. The book chronicles both the impact of this disruption as it spreads around the world. The authors feel that it will affect every kind of industry imaginable.

2007 was the year when the first 3D printer was introduced. Since then the technology has come a long way. So what are some major breakthroughs with 3D printing manufacturing or “additive manufacturing process?”

A 3D printer in Amsterdam can print a bridge across a canal without using support scaffolding. A global auto manufacturer created a car that automatically changes its physical shape in response to current driving conditions. A scientist in London experimented with 3D printing material that is 200 times stronger than steel. A Harvard researcher has printed printed batteries the size of a single grain of sand. An astronaut printed replacement parts in outer space and a shipping executive has done the same thing on a cargo ship.

How does the printing work?

Imagine that you’re in your office or home using your document printer. However, there are two major differences. One, instead of printing with ink, a 3D printer uses plastics, ceramics, or any other textile. Two, the printer doesn’t do all the work at one time and then moves onto the next page of paper. Instead it goes back and forth hundreds or thousands of times. During each time the printer goes back and forth, it creates thin, precise layers on top of each other until the user has a fully formed three-dimensional object.

One reader of the book had high praise. “A compelling argument for why leaders in every industry need to understand 3D printing and why they need that understanding now,” said Alan Gershenhorn, chief commercial officer, UPS.

There are two characteristics that allow companies who use 3D printing to expand their cultures. First the technology has an unparalleled capacity for high complexity manufacturing. If the design can be created using a 3D program on a computer, it can be produced into a physical object.

3D printing enables low volume, customized manufacturing. This however might not be feasible due to the state of the economy and mass production. It’s one thing to mass-produce the same object, but it’s a whole other thing to sell what has been produced.

3D printing can revolutionize the medical field as well. Instead of replacing a bone with an off the shelf model and hoping for the best, doctors can scan it and print out an exact model of the bone. Also this technology can dramatically change the outcome for people who have lost limbs because it is cost efficient. The prosthetic companies and create any type of limb with any type of specifications from the person in need. 

The future of industrial 3D printing manufacturing will be changing and revolutionizing the way business and companies reproduce to scale. After reading this book, the title “The Great Disruption” might be misleading. The idea is mind-boggling and the future is full of possibilities.

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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