Manufacturing Workgroup: 3D printing: neither gimmick nor revolution

Monday 25 March, 2013
6:30 for a 7:00 pm start

De Santis
11-13 Old Street (near junction with Goswell Road)
London EC1V 9HL


The potential of 3D printing has gripped the imagination of many in design, manufacturing, information technology and architecture. At a time when many business innovations are based around how the ‘product’ is packaged and sold to the customer, it is indeed refreshing to see a technology-led boost to how material things are made. Some go so far as to proclaim that with ‘additive manufacturing’, we are on the cusp of a New Industrial Revolution, one that may restructure society, make the means of production more democratic, and give the economy a much needed boost.

However, other are more skeptical, seeing additive manufacturing as just another (all-be-it still exciting) technique that adds to the multitude of existing manufacturing processes.

But when President Obama mentions 3D printing in his State of the Nation Address – suggesting that 3D printing ‘has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything’ – this has clearly become an important subject to unpick.

This discussion will address 3D printing (also referred to as ‘additive manufacturing’) and we are keen to hear your thoughts. As such, we would like to invite you to this discussion on the theme ‘3D printing: neither gimmick nor revolution’. As well as discussing the key articles that have been written on the subject we will introduce a new  paper written by BIG POTATOES co-author Professor James Woudhuysen, recently published on spiked plus, entitled ‘3D printing: neither gimmick nor revolution‘ (subscription required).

On the evening a short introduction on the subject will also be given, and this will be followed by a general discussion around the questions and themes noted (below).

If you would like to talk part please contact the convenor (above) accordingly and they will send you an invite.

Questions and themes to consider for the discussion

  • In a modern economy, how much can a new technology alone create new markets and significantly boost the economy? What other barriers need to be overcome?
  • Does much of the hype over 3D printing relate to its ability to act as an enabler for ‘mass customisation’ and tailored, niche products, thereby trying to squeeze more out of moribund market sectors, rather than act a fundamental new general purpose form of technology with wider social impact?
  • Can a  more democratised ‘means of production’ spur innovation or does it pander to amateurism?
  • How, if at all, does 3D printing contribute to increasing productivity? It is often said that we need new industries to create millions of new jobs, but also that productivity rises – which tend to lead to reduced employment – are needed. How do we square this circle?

Initial Readings

Further readings can be found in the shared bookmarks @thebigpotatoes #manufacturing #technology

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