Sunday, October 12, 2014

No. 55 – July 18, 2013 - The Locomobile, Henry Ford, and 3-D Printing

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

In 1900 the first automobile entered Yosemite Valley, causing a roil of excitement. The machine, a Locomobile, was owned by Oliver Lippincott. Over the next decade Americans would begin their move from horses as the primary source of transportation, to automobiles.

Automobiles were promptly banned in the Valley by the Park Service for the next 13 years.

In the meantime, Henry Ford, whose hometown win in his specially designed auto, the Sweepstakes, against Alexander Winton on October 10, 1901 provided the impetus allowing Ford to prove the concept of low-cost production with the Model T.

It was the assembly line, not the Model T, which put the world on wheels and changed how Americans lived.

The moving assembly line also changed how people viewed themselves.

While the assembly line lowered the cost of the finished product, bringing them within the reach of more people, things produced were identical. The assembly line changed how the world production and our relationship with how we create. These things were identical.

But people are all different.

Today, a new form of production has entered the market, moving the means of production from factory to garage.

Jay Leno uses 3-D printing to save him the aggravation of searching out old car parts for his extensive collection of antique cars. Leno is a practical guy, and scrounging through junk yards is now a thing of the past for him as he views his collection of vintage autos.

The new technology is shaking up assumptions about how a broad range of things can be best produced and how we do business.

Today, 3-D is producing hearing aids, exactly tailored to the wearer's ear canal, and is being used in experiments producing custom-fitted prosthetic limbs. The cost for complex aircraft parts may move to 3-D, doing away with bolts and screws which before held components together.

Printers are not expensive. Free plans are available on the Internet, and you can buy a small 3-D printer for under $1,000. The process lends itself to programs which can handle the technical side of the work. Patterns are generated by computer, transmitted and downloaded. Using layers of material laid down incrementally, the object is produced.

Today, the impact on the market is only beginning. Many believe 3-D will reverse the outsourcing of production, bringing it all the way home to people.

Imagine deciding exactly what you want, and getting it.

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