23 Jun 2017
It’s one of those internet memes that appears on social media every once in a while, but it’s hard to track down the first iteration but it essentially goes like this:
It gets a chuckle from me every time, swiftly followed by memories of the clunking staccato rhythm of loading a floppy disk into my first PC home (it still doesn’t beat the noise of loading a cassette tape-based game into the old BBC Acorns but I fear I may be showing my age now).
Nostalgic memories aside, the meme confirms that 3D printing is slowly becoming a well-established, socially recognised technology medium.
It’s a technology that is on the cusp of simultaneously shaping multiple industries and is destined to change the definition of design, manufacturing, construction, retail, medicine and space exploration. It’s also one of those technologies that I’m a self-confessed fan of and follow its progress as avidly as some like to watch their local team play football.
This blog sets out how 3D printing will soon impact on three industries – construction, retail, and health, and how it will become as standard as the floppy disc drive once was!
Industrial 3-D printing is at a tipping point, about to go mainstream in a big way. Most executives and many engineers don’t realise it, but this technology has moved well beyond prototyping, rapid tooling, trinkets, and toys.
Harvard Business Review
Image Source: Total Kustom
The construction industry has been doing the same thing for well over a hundred years now. Houses for example are still very much set to rectangular standardised plans, mostly built from single materials joined together by mortar and nails, and constructed over a number of weeks. Not for much longer. Say hello to the Rudenko 3D printer which is a gantry-based concrete extrusion printer. Rudenko is one of a growing number of start-up companies using concrete to print structures such as the above example of a castle, or the World’s first 3D printed hotel suite.
The castle was very much a proof of concept for the makers and took around 3 months to print back in 2014. However the technology is moving fast. How fast? Well the below example of a 3D printed house prototype was printed earlier this year. But the most impressive part of the house isn’t just the fact that it was 3D printed, it’s that it only took 24 hours to print.
It’s no longer a giant leap to imagine a similar system employed by housebuilders in the coming years. If we could turn these systems into a mobile platform (some of which already are), housebuilders could one day park up a printer, programme it with designs for a row of houses (houses which could have been designed by the future residents, to perfectly match their needs and wants) and away it would go. It could greatly speed up house building, which could minimise disruption to the surrounding area and boost affordable housing provision. In addition it could open up a whole new market of custom homes, allowing prospective home owners to tell the housebuilders how they want their house to look and what the layout should be.
Its potential for house builders is obvious but it could go much further than that. Such a system could also be deployed to disaster zones to quickly build shelters to house those who have lost their homes.
Manufacturing & Retail
Image Source: PC Advisor
Any rail traveller or music lover knows it’s far more convenient and easier to simply print your tickets rather than collecting them at the station or waiting for them to arrive in the post. Convenience can be a killer of the high street shop however.
Just as the rise of the digitally downloaded album or movie saw a corresponding fall in high street sales and ultimately a swathe of retailers like HMV closing stores, other retailers could soon feel the effects of 3D printing as it will ultimately change the way we purchase our goods. This would foreseeably have a knock-on effect on supply lines and the need for a physical high street presence.
With more and more materials being developed for use with 3D printing and more 3D printers having the capability to print multiple materials simultaneously, the idea of on-demand printing of products no longer seems to far-fetched. Home 3D printing has many advantages over the more traditional retail models. Why go to the shops to replace the broken door handle when you could just print a replacement at home? Or why stand in the cold and rain waiting for the latest iPhone when you could just pay apple direct for a download link and print it yourself?
And even if the convenience of not having to physically go to the shops isn’t a selling point for consumers, the ability to then customise those products are virtually limitless. Imagine being able to print a pair of shoes that are customised - from the colour and style right down to a perfect fit for your foot.
3D printing is making a noticeable impact in hospitals across the world. In Birmingham for example, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital recently announced that it is saving an average of 3 to 4 hours and £20,000 per surgery by printing 3D models of patients’ organs using their new in-house 3D printer so that doctors and surgeons can see what needs doing before ever picking up a scalpel.
If I were to take one thing away from this blog, it’s that I’m going to be buying a 3D printer for my daughter for Christmas soon. Why? Because we are in the early days of 3D printing and like my old BBC Acorn, they are expensive and have limited functionality.
However it’s those limitations that encouraged the Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Tim Berners-Lee’s of the world to start playing with the technology, developing new programming languages and new ways of using it. It’s my feeling that it will be the kids of today who grow up with these 3D printers in their homes and schools who will really push the technology in the next 10/20 years - and jobs in the industry will increase in number exponentially. It’s a technology that is here, and must not be ignored.
29 Jul 2016
A few days ago I was listening to an interview with Sir Jeremy Isaacs about the lasting qualities and the enduring legacy of the TV series, ‘The World at War’. One particular caller commented that his son had learned more about the Second World War by watching this one TV series than in the entirety of his primary and secondary education.This is true in my own educational experience; I’ve learned more about the world by watching the likes of TED Talks and VSauce than I ever did in school, college and university.This isn’t surprising. Moving visuals are in our DNA, hardwiring our brains to pay attention and quickly understand things that move and make noise, allowing us to pick up visual data 60,000 times faster than we can process something as visually complex as text.
In my previous blog about the use of infographics, I quoted the old saying, “a picture speaks a thousand words”. Not surprisingly, Dr. James McQuivey of Forrester Research wrote a report back in 2008 claiming that if a picture is worth one thousand words, then one minute of video is worth 1.8 million.Video communication allows us to keep the visual complexities of text to a minimum and allows the more visual aspects that video provides to convey ideas quickly. Visual story telling isn’t anything new, we have been doing it ever since we started painting on cave walls. Visual story telling is very visceral, triggering an emotional response.This emotional connection can be a powerful communication tool, especially to businesses large and small. It doesn’t matter if you are trying to sell something, teach something, align someone to your vision or just wanting to create an emotional connection, video is the ideal tool.Here at NLP, we have recently launched our latest video promoting our digital offer. Not only does it showcase what digital services NLP’s Graphic Design Team can offer, but also provides a perfect example of the quality and complexity of video communication we can produce.
In a ’white paper’ published by the technology company Cisco, it is predicted that by next year, 69% of all consumer internet traffic will be video. Cisco are far from alone in this predication, as I struggled to find any similar predication about internet trends that doesn’t cite video as a rapid growth area.So videos such as NLP’s are fast becoming essential for any business. Forrester Research for example found that a web site is 50 times more likely to appear on the first page of Google search results if it includes video.The sheer quantity of internet video success stories borders on the stuff of myth and legend. Take last year’s Sainsbury’s Christmas advert about Mog the Cat which reached over 30 million views on Youtube. Now, I’m not saying that NLP’s video, or others we produce have the potential to be viewed millions of times, however it does demonstrate the power of video to boost awareness. By engaging with viewers optimally, a message is more likely to be shared with others, and the viewer will spend longer interacting with a business.NLP’s Digital Team can produce a range of digital material, including animated video, to help communicate messages, including the benefits of a development scheme. This, according to my research, could provide a platform, for it to be watched and shared by a far greater audience than traditional printed methods.