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Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Third Industrial Revolution Is Beginning


Edmund Pendleton, the Assistant Director of the Mtech VentureAccelerator at the University of Maryland, was a panelist at The Democratization of Innovation meeting.

He observed we are entering the third industrial revolution. The shift from local shops to locating multiple crafts and trades in a factory setting was the hallmark of the first industrial revolution. The second revolution was the creation of mass production of products. The emerging third industrial revolution is digital building.

Instead of working by hand, or through robotic assembly, digital building combines digital files and duplication equipment – 3D copiers – to create the product. This is an additive manufacturing process – start with nothing and end with a finished product without human or robotic assembly.

This star was created from code sent to a MakerBot Replicator – it is made of white plastic. This technique is being used to fabricate 32 panels for the new Boeing 787 aircraft – and these panels can not be made using traditional assembly  methods.

Before this technology was available, products were made primarily by custom assembly or subtractive manufacturing – taking away from the raw material to yield the finished part or product.

Beyond the technical novelty, this approach fits perfectly in the Maker Economy of 1-2-3 member organizations who collaborate with others and seek the most efficient materials and production for their goods.

The digital file – coded in one location – shipped by email to a manufacturing location anywhere there is capacity and price efficiencies – the user buy on-line – a shipper delivers it to the user directly or via a local retail outlet.

Sounds futuristic – but Amazon and Barnes and Noble are doing something similar today for books. How far away are we for receiving a replacement part for the dishwasher, ordered by the on-board computer chip in the dishwasher itself - with no human involvement until the replacement part is taken from the delivery truck?

What are your thoughts about a third industrial revolution?

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