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Printing, not plastics, young person

Tuesday, 8 December, 2015

This is a post about Industry 4.0, the next Industrial Revolution, in which everything from toasters to thermostats will be connected to the internet. But first, The Graduate, a 1967 film directed by Mike Nichols that tells the story of Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), an aimless young graduate, who is seduced by an older woman, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), and then falls in love with her daughter Elaine (Katharine Ross). With its air of rebellion and a soundtrack by Simon & Garfunkel, The Graduate captured the counter-culture of the Sixties and is now regarded as a classic. At one point, during a party, this exchange takes place between Benjamin and Mr. McGuire, a businessman, who embodies mainstream society:

Mr. McGuire: “I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.”
Benjamin: “Yes, sir.”
Mr. McGuire: “Are you listening?”
Benjamin: “Yes, I am.”
Mr. McGuire: “Plastics.”
Benjamin: “Exactly how do you mean?”
Mr. McGuire: “There’s a great future in plastics.”

Now, back to Industry 4.0. For Jaime Marijuán Castro, a consultant in the electronics industry, printing is the new plastics. More precisely, 3D printing. In a recent post for IBM’s Insights on Business blog, he placed a wager on 3D scanning and printing:

“This is my favorite and the one I am betting on. It is going to radically change the way products are built and marketed. Imagine 3D print vending machines at your nearby convenience store you can use to produce your own designs in a matter of minutes, or the ability to provide remote maintenance services and delivering a replacement part without shipping it. Some factories are already producing plastic parts with 3D printers but I still think this technology is slow and very limited. It will not reach economic viability before the next 10 years. Modularity, interoperability, virtualization and service orientation are brought in by the 3D tech and — like the autonomous vehicle — you don’t want to be the last exploring its potential.”

Is it a bet worth making? Right on cue, Fortune is reporting that a patent application submitted by Apple shows the company is thinking about 3D printing. Make of note of it. It might be the new plastics.


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