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Why choose 3D printing?

As we all know, additive manufacturing technology is developing more and more rapidly and has been widely used in various industries, so why will additive manufacturing become an indispensable part of the future manufacturing industry? Don’t worry, let’s explore the interrelationship between advanced technology and changing human needs, and explore the rise of 3D printing in the context of Industry 4.0.


Human needs and industrial transformation: symbiotic evolution

The arrival of the fourth industrial revolution represents a new technological change, reflecting the continuous development of technological innovation to meet the growing needs of mankind. The dynamic interplay between technology and human needs is nothing new and has been repeated throughout history. To better understand the progression of human needs, one can turn to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a psychological theory that categorizes these needs from the most basic to the most advanced. A study by Minwha Lee et al. (2018) further elaborates on the relationship between these changing human needs and the emergence of new technologies, leading to the subsequent Industrial Revolution.

Maslow’s framework begins with basic physiological needs such as food, water, and shelter, then progresses to safety, love, belonging, and respect, and ultimately to self-actualization. As human needs at each level are met, the individual progresses to the next level, thereby promoting the development of new technologies designed to meet these changing needs. Over time, the emphasis has shifted from meeting basic material needs to enriching social connections. Currently, we observe a growing emphasis on satisfying esteem needs and promoting self-actualization, which is largely centered on the individual or “me.”

Every industrial revolution in history has corresponded to these changing needs, as follows:


1. Physiological and safety needs: survival and ownership

First and Second Industrial Revolutions: These phases are primarily driven by the need to address survival, ownership, and necessities like food and housing. The success of these revolutions spread technological innovations throughout society, reducing working hours and raising wages, thus setting the stage for higher levels of demand.

2. Social needs: contact and communication

Third Industrial Revolution: Marked by the rise of computers, automation, and social networking sites (SNS), this era connects people across the globe, fosters a sense of community, and lays the groundwork for the convergence of the physical and online worlds.

3. Respect needs: self-expression, creativity and innovation

Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0): This phase is characterized by disruptive innovations, driven by self-expression, status, and the human desire to create and innovate. The transition to Industry 4.0 represents an attempt to create new value and wealth by further satisfying human aspirations. Robotics and 3D printing are gaining traction as traditional manufacturing faces challenges in new industrial transformations.

The current shift has given rise to a “digital twin” society, in which every aspect of the physical realm is connected to its cyber counterpart through the Internet of Things, sensors, artificial intelligence, and other methods of data collection. This lays the groundwork for a “smart” physical society, fine-tuned by artificial intelligence, paving the way for future advancements.

As human needs continue to evolve and the need for convergence between the physical and cyber worlds grows, 3D printing takes center stage. As a key physical enabler in the framework of Industry 4.0, it perfectly meets our growing needs for personalization, flexibility, and innovation. In doing so, additive manufacturing embodies the unlimited potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, becoming a bridge between human aspirations and technological possibilities in the tangible world.

Needs AM meets: Personalization, creativity, and more
Traditional manufacturing processes, although robust, often face challenges such as inflexibility, waste, strict design constraints, and lengthy production cycles. These factors not only increase costs but also reduce innovation, aesthetics, and the ability to meet individual needs.

3D printing is a revolutionary solution that is changing the manufacturing landscape. Unlike traditional methods that rely on molds and cutting tools, additive manufacturing builds objects layer by layer through digital design, facilitating on-demand production and complex geometries. Here are the human needs that additive manufacturing needs to fulfill:

●Individualization: AM’s approach allows for unparalleled customization to meet individual preferences and requirements. From fashion to cars, additive manufacturing is turning consumers into creators, aligning products with their identities.

Self-expression: AM promotes self-expression through design, art, and innovation. 3D printing is a platform for creativity, allowing people to see their ideas become reality.

●Creativity, knowledge, and innovation: Additive manufacturing accelerates the implementation of innovation, giving designers and engineers the freedom to explore and learn. It is a catalyst for knowledge, understanding, performance, beauty, and artistic expression.

● Sustainability and efficiency: Additive manufacturing is not only an alternative but can significantly reduce waste and speed up production cycles. It is an accelerator for a new era of innovation and efficiency, perfectly aligned with the principles of Industry 4.0.

By transcending the limitations of traditional manufacturing and satisfying humanity’s growing desire for self-creation, personalization, and self-realization, additive manufacturing is more than just a technological advancement; It symbolizes the endless possibilities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The future of 3D printing in digital manufacturing

The future of additive manufacturing is promising, including innovations in areas such as hardware, materials, and software, as well as the larger area of digital transformation.

1. Data-centric technology:

IoT and connectivity: As industries move toward data-driven processes, additive manufacturing systems will increasingly be enhanced by IoT. This convergence will enable predictive maintenance, remote monitoring, and real-time adaptability.

Data-driven manufacturing: In the future, additive manufacturing will rely heavily on big data and analytics for real-time optimization, allowing companies to dynamically respond to market changes.

2. Convergence of digital and physical worlds:

Digital twins and simulation: The next decade will see the full integration of digital twins in additive manufacturing, making real-time simulation the norm rather than the exception. This will revolutionize the product development cycle.

Cyber-physical systems: In the future, additive manufacturing will seamlessly integrate the digital and physical worlds, becoming a key component of the Industry 4.0 ecosystem.

3. Automation and intelligence:

Artificial Intelligence and Automation: The role of AI is evolving from automating design and process optimization to incorporating predictive analytics and adaptive quality control. The true market potential of additive manufacturing will be unlocked by making the technology easier to use.

4. Data security:

Blockchain and Integrity: As digital threats escalate, blockchain will become an integral part of additive manufacturing, ensuring data integrity and providing a tamper-proof record throughout the manufacturing lifecycle.

In conclusion

3D printing is not just another production method but a catalyst for change in our current industrial landscape. The impact of additive manufacturing is amplified because it is closely integrated with the digital technologies driving today’s digital transformation, enabling it to meet ever-changing human needs. Additive manufacturing is more than a tool, it is a cornerstone in the evolving architecture of Industry 4.0.

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