Now the economics of large-scale production runs carried out overseas are being disrupted by the possibility of making, selling and delivering millions of manufactured items one unit at a time, right next to the customer.
The question most people ask when thinking about the possibilities of 3D printing is: which of our existing products could we make with it? This is what happened when people first discovered mechanical power of steam engines: they started asking whether it would be possible to make a mechanical horse and cart? For a long time, the results were impractical mechanical replicas of a horse and cart, like the weird contraption shown above. It took more than a hundred years before people were able to think through the possibilities of mechanical power and developed comfortable and convenient transportation devices (cars) that were unlike any horse and cart we had ever seen.
Similarly, with digital manufacture, the important question is not which of our existing products can we make but rather: what can we do with this new technology that we couldnâ€™t even dream of doing before?