3D Printing: a research by LIBA

(Photo Credit: Educational Technology and Mobile Learning)

Imagine situations like these: you need to buy a gift item or a Toy for your friend’s son birthday. Your wife is worried about what gift item should be given for the visitors who will come to see the Kolu decorations you made in your house. Your daughter wants to develop a model of some organs in the human body.

All these situations, we have experienced and going to experience. Now you can have everything made in your home. Yes, 3D printers (Additive manufacturing) at your home can make all these items and even more at an affordable cost and at the press of a switch. It is equal to small multi-product factory at your home. You can design a product and you can produce at your home. Along with 3D printers, we have 3D scanners, Laser cutters, and other latest computer integrated machines combined with Internet can change business organisation beyond imagination.

Today, you can download a design of a product which is patented by paying some money. Then you can make that product for your use. This kind of revolution took place in publishing industry sometime back due to Internet. For example Harvard Business Review case studies can be bought online by paying money equal to number of copies that you want to use or class discussion. After downloading, one can take copies and use them for class discussion. Similarly, the revolution in manufacturing is enabled by Internet and social networks.

Open innovation leads to rapid development of new products and a new product continuously evolve because improvements made by users or customers or designers online (how Wikipedia is being modified by users). This open innovation combined with 3D printers can impact many businesses in a significant way.

The 3D printers can also be replicated and made locally with some assembly knowledge. This leads to tremendous change in business, especially how we produce, distribute and consume. Today, we know that people make Ice-creams, cakes and some other eatables at home. Similarly one can make a toy, soap, plastics goods, and metal goods at home. Even if we are not interested to make it at home, the retailers can make for us at the point of sale and hence service is on demand and no inventory of products. People buy these printers just like washing machines that we buy.

The supply chain will undergo changes, where each home and retail house may become an industrial buyer of raw materials like how we buy groceries at retail. Machine cost may be high initially but later it will become cheap for common man. Already, GE started to produce Jet Engine components using 3D printers and suppliers of these components are out of business. Prototyping is very easy due to 3D printing.

Now what is the impact on MBAs and managers? How we foresee the changes and how we are going to adapt to these changes.

a) Due to open innovations, many online small business start-ups will emerge because each one can modify, develop new improvements and can get patents. These products then can be produced at user end by paying online.

b) 3D machines also can be produced at user end with some assembly kit and hence new and rapid development in 3 D printing technology is expected.

c) As managers, we should understand that mostly small size products like consumer goods are produced by 3 D printers (Lower version, there are industrial versions also). So, the branding and communication can all become online.

d) The supply chain will undergo tremendous changes and manager should be ready for this revolution.

e) New niche markets for each variety of a product will develop but is is not big enough for a company to serve. So, small on-line business may serve these markets.

So far, we can tell these above things only. It is still not clear where this development will lead us. But we should be aware about this to be equipped better. Please remember like this technology, there are other new technologies in pipeline which will have tremendous effect on business. Some of them are Nano technology, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Genetics and related developments.

P.Chandiran, Associate Professor, Loyola Institute of Business Administration,

Chennai-600 034, E mail: [email protected]

Note: This is a sponsored article and has NOT been written by the PaGaLGuY Editorial Team. It is intended from an informational perspective only and it is upto the readers to research and verify the claims and judgements in the article before reaching a conclusion.