The widespread adoption of 3D printing has opened the door to low-cost products designed by (and for) individual consumers. But does this technology really herald the end of the traditional manufacturing industry?

In February this year, internet giants Amazon filed a patent application [1] for a fleet of trucks equipped with 3D printers. They would be able to receive online orders, print and then deliver the finished product direct to the customer’s door. The internet was awash with ‘‘Does this signal the end of the factory?’’ The short answer is no. Speaking to the Telegraph [2], Dick Elsy, chief executive of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult recently said,‘‘There’s a perception that just because 3D printers have hit the high street for a few hundred pounds they are going to dispense with traditional factories. There’s a long journey to get to that point. The economics just don’t work at the moment’’. While there is no doubt that we have truly entered the era of ‘The Maker’, the reality is that rather than being caught out by the rise of 3D printing, high-end industry has been at the forefront of developing the technique for over 20 years.

This article appeared in the Sept/Oct issue of Metal Powder Report.

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