This is short envisioning about local manufacturing and 3D printing. If you are in a city or industrial area, imagine drawing a circle of 100m diameter around your location. What are the activities taking place in the area? Look out from your window and simply list what you see.
There are probably offices, homes, shops, services, small and large businesses, bikes and cars, maybe kids playing. Everyday activities take place, such as renovating, maintaining, adjusting, breaking things, repairing, fixing, improving, problem solving and generating new ideas. There is continuous need for solutions to make life easier.
Local manufacturing is the concept of making products close to customers and users. The idea is not new. Thousands of years people have made all they need close to where they are using the available simple materials, and often asking help from the community.
Global competition and strive for efficiency has led to centralized and optimized manufacturing in bigger volumes and in places where the production is most efficient. Local manufacturing has not been the winning concept in recent decades. However, new era seems to be starting due to the demands for sustainability, circular economy and digitalization.
We have 3D printing solutions to design, manufacture and deliver all kinds of products, spare parts and components in less than 24 hours. This exists today, but it is not yet reality everywhere (as is the case with all future cracks). Do you know where is your nearest local service to have products or spare parts 3D printed?
What kind of 3D printed parts the local customers inside your 100m radius might need? For example at home:
- Spare parts to fix broken handles, toys, gadgets.
- Special tools to improve accessibility, health, safety or ergonony
- Affordable design objects to make things more personal or esthetic
- Special holders for lights, cables, bike appliances, etc
- Prototypes to support design drafting or ideation project
- Appliances for pets (dogs, cats, aquarium).
- Tools and parts for hobby, such as knitting or sports
Figure: 3D printed table light. 3D printed with wood composite, plastic and metal. Design: Origo Engineering. 3D printing: 3DStep.
3D printing is ready for competitive local manufacturing and new business models. Faster technologies, better software and widening offering of materials are introduced every week. Maybe the concept for future is rapid product. Today’s 24 hour delivery time will shrink to <1h deliveries with the help of smart design tools, very fast 3D printers, digital platforms and innovative delivery strategies.
What will be the extreme customer experience for rapid products in the future? It will be close to magic. It is simple. Almost like using a magic wand. You express your need or idea to the service (or the smart device has already told what’s needed). And sooner than you expect, the product is delivered to you with a robot or drone, by the girl next door, or as virtual product proposal into your smart device.
Establishing local manufacturing business for rapid products and local manufacturing is not rocket science or huge investment. You can start the business from your couch with a laptop and with a 1000€ 3D printer. Finding the correct business model is the most tricky part. In the beginning the business will be based mostly based on small transactions of less than 50€. Developing value adding services that help the local community to learn and try the rapid product possibilities may be the fast track to increase the sales. Or maybe it is simply because of the speed of solving product problems.
The business can expand further, for example,
- by scaling up your manufacturing capability with larger fleet of 3D printers ad other tools,
- by digital service innovation and crowdsourcing design work.
- by developing collaborative business with other local manufacturers for wider solutions offering, and
- by creating explicit value (concrete problem solving) or implicit value (customer experience) for your customers.
If you had 5000€ budget, what kind of local manufacturing service would you start?
Pekka Ketola, firstname.lastname@example.org