3D printing and the impact to Chinese supply chains

Take a lesson from Charles Hull, credited with inventing stereolithographic (3D Printing), the solid imaging process. He was the inventor of the first commercial rapid prototyping technology and founded 3D Systems (NYSE: DDD) that has grown into a 2492 employee company with a market cap of USD $1.846 billion (Morrissey, 2015). Dream big. The Price of DDD appears to follow the Gartner Hype Cycle.

The potential applications for 3D printing are almost limitless. Hushang Tengda in Bejing, China printed a 400m square villa on site in 45 days. The Institute of Advance Architecture of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain used an arm of robots that build as a unit, removing limitations of one large print, with the ability to create skyscrapers. INNOprint in Nantes, France has mastered emergency accommodations, leveraging printers to create shelters ready to go in 30 minutes. MX3D out of Amsterdam, Netherlands created a 3D printed steel bridge across a canal. 3D printing is solving simple challenges such as producing a piping hot pizza and starting to tackle more challenging problems. NASA is not interested in creating Space Age Food; they are interested in the ability to create a tool on demand in space. That concept is a bit distance so let’s make this more personal.

America’s population on average getting older. The population of Americans ages 65 and older is forecasted to more than double from 46 million today to over 98 million by 2060 (Mather, 2016). Education levels are increasing, life expectancy is on the rise, and older adults are working longer. Inevitably at some point we all need healthcare. Process to perform a surgery is about to dramatically change. Soon doctors will have the ability to scan a patient and print a life-size model of that patient’s organ, for example, a heart, to allow physicians to identify where they must operate and anticipate future complications. 3D printing will give doctors the ability to review medical problems, much like architect’s view building plans in 3D (Conner-Simons, 2015). Is 3D printing an indicator of the reversal of the Industrial Revolution? A new shift from mass production to individualized manufacturing on demand. China may have to cede its title as the world manufacturing powerhouse (Morrissey, 2015).

Opportunities for China won’t entirely implode. Not all products lend themselves well to 3D printing. Fortunately, the products that don’t may benefit from the next generation, fourth dimension (4D) printing. These printed parts are injected with “memory materials” that respond to light or heat creating new shapes after delivery (D’Aveni, 2015). Imagine a new cabinet, that is shipped flat in a 3-foot box, but upon arrival reshapes itself into a 9-foot cabinet when exposed to light. There is still hope for China.


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Peter is a technology executive with 19 years of experience, dedicated to driving innovation, digital transformation, leadership, and data in business. He helps organizations connect strategy to execution to maximize company performance. He has been recognized for Digital Innovation by CIO 100, MIT Sloan, Computerworld, and the Project Management Institute. As Managing Director at OROCA Innovations, Peter leads the CXO advisory services practice, driving digital strategies. Peter was honored as an MIT Sloan CIO Leadership Award Finalist in 2015 and is a regular contributor to CIO.com on innovation. Peter has led businesses through complex changes, including the adoption of data-first approaches for portfolio management, lean six sigma for operational excellence, departmental transformations, process improvements, maximizing team performance, designing new IT operating models, digitizing platforms, leading large-scale mission-critical technology deployments, product management, agile methodologies, and building high-performance teams. As Chief Information Officer, Peter was responsible for Connecticut’s Health Insurance Exchange’s (HIX) industry-leading digital platform transforming consumerism and retail oriented services for the health insurance industry. Peter championed the Connecticut marketplace digital implementation with a transformational cloud-based SaaS platform and mobile application recognized as a 2014 PMI Project of the Year Award finalist, CIO 100, and awards for best digital services, API, and platform. He also received a lifetime achievement award for leadership and digital transformation, honored as a 2016 Computerworld Premier 100 IT Leader. Peter is the author of Learning Intelligence: Expand Thinking. Absorb Alternative. Unlock Possibilities (2017), which Marshall Goldsmith, author of the New York Times No. 1 bestseller Triggers, calls "a must-read for any leader wanting to compete in the innovation-powered landscape of today." Peter also authored The Power of Blockchain for Healthcare: How Blockchain Will Ignite The Future of Healthcare (2017), the first book to explore the vast opportunities for blockchain to transform the patient experience. Peter has a B.S. in C.I.S from Bentley University and an MBA from Quinnipiac University, where he graduated Summa Cum Laude. He earned his PMP® in 2001 and is a certified Six Sigma Master Black Belt, Masters in Business Relationship Management (MBRM) and Certified Scrum Master. As a Commercial Rated Aviation Pilot and Master Scuba Diver, Peter understands first hand, how to anticipate change and lead boldly.