Feb 1, 2012
The Coming Tech-led Boom is a recent article published in the Wall Street Journal.
In January 2012, we sit again on the cusp of three grand technological transformations with the potential to rival that of the past century. All find their epicenters in America: big data, smart manufacturing and the wireless revolution.
Now, that’s what I call timing because I’ve been staking out the ground on two of those technological transformation – Smarter Manufacturing here on this blog and Big Data (at my new blog: Pachydata.com). Alas, as far as Smarter Manufacturing is concerned, I’m more concerned about effective manufacturing and elaborating on the fundamentals of manufacturing carried out in an intensely competitive environment.
The Smarter Manufacturing that the authors of the article had in mind is as follows:
While we see evidence already in automation and information systems applied to supply-chain management, we are just entering an era where the very fabrication of physical things is revolutionized by emerging materials science. Engineers will soon design and build from the molecular level, optimizing features and even creating new materials, radically improving quality and reducing waste.
Devices and products are already appearing based on computationally engineered materials that literally did not exist a few years ago: novel metal alloys, graphene instead of silicon transistors (graphene and carbon enable a radically new class of electronic and structural materials), and meta-materials that possess properties not possible in nature; e.g., rendering an object invisible—speculation about which received understandable recent publicity.
This era of new materials will be economically explosive when combined with 3-D printing, also known as direct-digital manufacturing—literally "printing" parts and devices using computational power, lasers and basic powdered metals and plastics. Already emerging are printed parts for high-value applications like patient-specific implants for hip joints or teeth, or lighter and stronger aircraft parts. Then one day, the Holy Grail: "desktop" printing of entire final products from wheels to even washing machines.
Such a radical shift is definitely possible but that changes the very idea of manufacturing as it has existed over the last three centuries. It’s not Smarter Manufacturing as much as it is desktop manufacturing.
Ok, so one out of three – not bad at all.