• Paul Thompson

A billion new inventors – manufacturing of the future


We are on the verge of transforming one of society’s most fundamental building blocks: Manufacturing.


As new technologies enable manufacturers to customize everything, these same agents are quickly turning consumers into inventors.


Following the Agricultural Revolution some 5,000 years ago, humanity made a huge breakthrough that allowed complex societies to flourish: we specialised.


It made no sense for each of us to make all our everyday products and bear the cost of necessary building equipment. So soon enough, we had our neighbourhood shoemaker, carpenter, silversmith and tailor.


Fast forward several thousand years, and large corporations have created vast new product lines and amplified output. We can now fabricate the same product over and over again millions of times, using assembly lines, labour-driven mega-factories, human-operated machinery and more.


But today, technological convergence is closing the historical loop. While we used to specialise based on manufacturing ability and availability of tools, these constraints are about to disappear.


As 3D printing farms, smart factories and autonomous co-bots turn concepts into commodities overnight, we are about to witness three major paradigm shifts:


1. Mass Customization: As fixed costs begin to reach variable costs in the production sphere, companies will no longer fabricate millions of the same product or part. Customer data-driven design will allow for tailor-made commodities, and one-off production will be just as cheap.


2. Democratised Invention: Incubator studios and fabrication equipment labs are jumping onto the scene. Flaunting AI-aided robots and swarm 3D printers that work overnight, these urban workshops basically serve as your new testing ground - the physical hands for your digital designs. 


Forget operational costs, fabrication equipment, prototyping, tooling and far-flung production plants. Whether in-house or entirely outsourced, design-to-production technologies allow anyone to invent.


3. Smart and Autonomous Factories: Already own a manufacturing plant aiming to meet production quotas? Industrial IoT (IIoT) and smart factories are ushering in a new era of autonomous production, minimising recall risk and freeing corporations to design expanded product lines . . .


Final Thoughts

Although many fear the job market losses caused by purely automated and smart manufacturing, democratised tools and dematerialised companies will allow anyone a shot at invention.


This means an upsurge of self-employed, creative minds building needed products; on-demand personalised commodities built at record speed; and an economic boom of unprecedented dimensions.


We’ve seen a skyrocketing software industry, bringing millions of jobs and brilliant services to our economy. As physical constraints to fabrication disappear and design platforms abound, we are on the verge of a second boom.


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