What will the future of manufacturing be like? What if you could get bespoke products, produced rapidly on demand, and in a green and eco-friendly way?
In the next 30 years, we will see manufacturing become more and more unbound from the idea of factories as we know them today. It will be freed up to appear in new locations, becoming an empowering force that drives customisation and personalisation of products across multiple sectors. All of this thanks to 3D printing innovation.
Fast forward to 2035: Do you see a piece of jewellery you like in a shop window, but it’s not quite the right colour or size? The shop will be able to 3D print you a custom piece in minutes, based precisely on your measurements and preferences. 3D Printing will drive a true paradigm shift for manufacturing, away from the mass production in a distant factory to something that happens right in front of you, creating a bespoke product for the same cost. By 2050 you may even be able to print clothes at home from designs shared online.
This innovation is not just tied to high street shopping – it will impact people’s lives in many ways. The two below are just some examples:
- The patient who needs a specific medicine or nutritional supplement will be able to visit a pharmacist and have their drug mixed to a bespoke dosage, based on their health records.
- If a military vehicle becomes damaged whilst on patrol, replacement parts can be printed instantly, ensuring the vehicle will be operational again, more quickly and with less risk than current repair systems allow.
What will become of the factories we know today?
3D printing is unlikely to spell the end for them, as elaborate, multi-material or chemical-based parts will require more complex requirements. Think of a vehicle battery or larger products that require intricate builds. Factories will become ‘hyper factories’, more efficient and green, capable of creating many different products at once, as opposed to specialising in certain areas.
Automation in robotics will play a huge part in this evolution, taking over repetitive or heavy lifting work.
AI advancements will be another big change factor, enabling robots to deal with complex tasks, as well as make them much more adaptable to suit different roles in production. This will allow for a new concept of collaborative man-machine interaction: CoBots. Human and robot working side by side, creating products and performing tasks that would usually take a team of people to be completed.
Whole factories themselves will be adaptable. Should change in demand for certain products shift, the factory itself will reconfigure to produce what is needed most.
This will be driven by constant real-time data updates through the Internet of Things – giving companies much more insight into what products their clients need, and when and where they will need them.
A greener production
All these innovations to the manufacturing process will allow for much more eco-friendly production. The future factory will be larger than today and powered by renewable energy.
Its adaptable nature will allow one giant space, to house the creation of multiple complex products – whose production time will be decreased no end by robotics.
3D Printing will see much less need for warehouses and for products to be shipped around the world.
Recycling will also come to play way more in the production pipeline. Imagine in 2035, if someone was printing a new pair of trainers, as they had outgrown their old pair – the material from the old trainers could be recycled to aid the creation of the new pair.
Similarly, In a future factory environment, a circular economy system can be used so that the waste material from one manufacturing process can drive the creation of something else.
Lastly, the idea of local production will be a prominent concept.
Items will be tracked with “Make Miles”: the combined distance the materials that make the product have travelled. The localisation of manufacturing will see people engage with local creators in order to get the eco-friendliest design possible.
It looks like the future of manufacturing is going to bring us to a more personalised, smarter, and sustainable world of goods.
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