Author: Constantin Măgdălina, Knowledge Management Senior, EY Romania
Recently a team of professors and students from the Technical University of Cluj-Napoca has been awarded a research grant to make auto parts using 3D technology. Latest news announces that three young technology enthusiasts, from Cluj-Napoca as well, manufactured a 3D printer at an affordable price that can be used by anyone at home. If for some people 3D printing still generates wonders, for youth it is a technology that increasingly preoccupies them more. Does Romania enter into 3D Printing age?
An example of efficiency
From 1769, when the automobile with steam engine was invented, till 2015, technological progress draws an important evolutionary chart. Last year at the Detroit Auto Show was revealed a “printed” car manufactured with a 3D printer. In the 49 of its component parts, 250 years of tradition are melted in 44 hours required for its manufacturing. This functional model of the car, which resulted from the design and manufacturing using 3D technology, testify to what some specialists in technology say is the second industrial revolution. Once perfected, this car model will be the successful replicable benchmark for other industries.
Numerous studies on the technology trends that transform the world show that the expected implications of 3d printing may be of very high magnitude for:
Science and technology
The technology for 3D printing means more than prototyping and layout. It evolves from merely processing of plastics and simple materials to processing of titanium or human cartilage. The evolution curve of 3D printing hardware capabilities led to the transformation of these materials in complex mechanisms, batteries, transistors or body parts. From aviation to medicine the applicability areas of this technology are manifold. Engineering sciences, design and technical research are undergoing a continuous transformation and special materials industry will open a wide range of possibilities with this technology. If conversion of these materials into complex mechanisms is possible, then the manufacture of 3D printers with this method is possible as well. Thus, with a high multiplier factor, each individual will be able to build their own 3D printer. To capitalize on the potential of 3D printers, today's children will have to master "digital design" and will use this technology in order to solve the problems of tomorrow.
From the companies' perspective, 3D printing technology will produce products in a shorter period of time at low labor cost. It is expected that the result will be: 1) increase in productivity 2) range product diversification 3) increase in product quality and decrease in losses due to the increasing accuracy of manufacturing 4) efficient inventory management 5) customizing products according to customer’s preferences 6) lower market entry costs for start-ups 7) reducing transaction costs, with impact on supply chains 8) removing the source of competitiveness from production in large volumes at low prices to niche production at higher prices. In Romania, there are business models that are centered on capitalizing on the potential of 3D printer. An example is the manufacturing of dental prostheses by using this technology.
Through 3D technology, an idea goes directly from the design phase to the execution phase skipping the traditional enshrined steps in manufacturing the product. By using models generated in digital format, and executed with 3D technology, certain specializations in the production process will not be necessary anymore. People grown up in the old economy paradigm may be suddenly placed outside of their profession and of the knowledge learnt. The prospect of an underperforming economy and of some social movements may put pressure on the redesign of education system to the new economy and the sectorial reconfiguration of all countries’ economies. Moreover, this technology is expected to change the consumer's relationship with the product and manufacturer. On the one hand we have the type of consumer who claims to have a participant role in the product concept. In an open source approach, some companies are already posting product models resulted from collaborative idea generation and leave the possibility for each model loaded on the website to be changed as desired and ordered by the consumer. On the other hand, the democratization of product manufacturing will open the option to manufacture in large scale at consumer’s site products with an average level of complexity in the following 10-20 years. The prospect of extending 3D printers’ domestic use in Romania will open the prosumers age (i.e. users who act both as producers and consumers).
Regulation and legislation
The subject of responsible use of 3D technology draws on the challenge of its regulation. Beyond capitalization on creativity and the increase in innovation index, manufacturing's democratization is likely to be limited in the first phase by the user’s skills and good will that will entail the second phase, the regulation of this area. Regarding regulatory issues, these can regard both the manufacturer and the user. For the 3D equipment manufacturer will be created the right legal framework only for 3D technology commercialization compatible with non-hazardous materials processing. The 3D printer user will be allowed the access to a type of 3D technology limited by a special software designed by the manufacturer for civilian use. With the advancement of this technology, in Romania will soon be written a new chapter in commercial and company law.
Currently undergoing the development phase, the 3D technology opens a new chapter in the history of science and technology, legislation, economics and social relations. Along with other advanced technologies, it will change the structure of the world economy. The prospect of disruptive effects in the next 10 years is very likely. The existence of significant regional differences between the countries’ economic structures will determine the impact of this technology. For example, according to a EY study, wherein the German economy values the importance of knowledge as 93% vs 75% the importance of product, the appearance of this technology will impact at different scale compared to the US, that values the importance of knowledge as 72% vs 80% importance of product due to the share between service sectors, manufacturing and the oil and gas in the economy.
The transformations which 3D technology will generate will be best understood by reference to post-factum consequences they will produce. Until then, Romania is making only the first steps in this field.