A recent article in the Harvard Business Review highlighted the future of manufacturing and the impact that additive manufacturing can have on it. This technology has the potential to revolutionize how we produce, both for products that we see in our shops and for materials that we manufacture inside of our own factories. In additive manufacturing, machines can be designed to make parts that may not previously have been able to fit together with traditional parts. With the help of machine vision, designers can now envision the future of manufacturing and what kinds of products we can produce. Companies involved in additive manufacturing can design anything from small widgets to entire cars and planes, using whatever they want as a starting point – it’s all up to the designer.
But like all revolutionary changes, there will also be some winners and losers along the way as more companies embrace additive manufacturing and robotic manufacturing. There is a clear distinction between those who benefit and those who lose when you look at the manufacturing industry today. Those in the manufacturing industry that embrace automation and additive manufacturing are reaping the benefits of a change that will greatly affect the manufacturing process. Larger and more established companies that have for years operated in the manual, by-the-book manufacturing method are suddenly becoming competitive with smaller companies that are using this technology.
The biggest beneficiaries by far are consumers. With the ability to choose from a variety of products, consumers can pick the exact product they want with just a few clicks of a mouse. They no longer have to visit a farm, see an animal being force-fed for its meat, and then have to select the most ethical product. Instead, they can simply go online to order the exact unit they want. Automated manufacturing plants and deep processing lines allow this kind of shopping experience, allowing buyers to sit in front of a computer screen or walk into a meat plant with their mouse, and having the item shipped directly to them. Deep processing lines have even been installed in grocery stores, allowing the automated shelving system to quickly move products from one shelf to another.