As a student majoring in mechanical engineering, I realized that some understanding in Economics can a big plus for applying engineering knowledge to the real world. Therefore, I decided to minor in Economics, taking ECON 411- Monetary and Financial Theory as well. This class have been very interesting to me, as I learned how monetary policy and government intervention can boost the economy.
Yet, I still think that the most direct cause for economic growth is the development in technology – where engineering takes place. One example of development in technology that led to huge economic boost is invention of steam engine in 18th century. The graph shown below, from OCCUPY LONDON – Blueprint for a new economy shows the world GDP per person, from year 1000 to 2000s. It can be seen from the graph that world GDP per person increased drastically after 18th century. The invention of steam engine increased the productivity of manufacturing and means of transportation, which led to an acute boost in economy.
It has been more than 200 years since the steam engine was invented. From then, many inventions and technological developments have been made, but none of them impacted the economy as drastically as steam engine have. I personally believe that this is mainly due to the fact that these inventions have not changed the “paradigm” of manufacturing. For instance, manufactures still manufacture using machines, labor, electricity and materials that have been used since the industrial revolution took place (of course, there have been innovations in machineries which led to a huge improvement in accuracy, precision and cost/time reduction)-until the invention of a new type of manufacturing, that might change the “paradigm” of manufacturing world – 3D printing.
3D printing is a process of making a three-dimensional solid object of any shape with use of a digital model made from computers. It incorporates additive process; multiple layers are laid down in different shapes to eventually manufacture a model. This can be a “paradigm shift” in world of manufacturing, as 3D printing can get rid of cutting and drilling which is a process of “removal of materials.”
The article General Electric on 3D printing: ‘We are on the verge of the next industrial revolution’ from ZD net suggests that 3D printing can lead to a next industrial revolution. According to the article, a 20 year old Indonesian student helped the company to manufacture a critical aircraft part that was 83 percent lighter and yet still met the safety and design criteria with saving considerable amount of budget, thanks to 3D printing. 3D printing can be used in any area, from automotive industry to medical fields, which is even more exciting and therefore attracted many investors worldwide.
So, will 3D printing lead us to a new industrial revolution? Not just yet. The Wall Street Journal article 3-D Printer Makers Get Reality Check says 3D printer manufactures’’ stock prices have fallen near 40% since January 2014, after a constant and rapid rise in 2013. Yet, this does not mean that 3D printing is inadequate for changing current manufacturing process. Engineers and researchers are still experimenting ways to incorporate 3D printing into real life, and in near future I believe that 3D printing will eventually lead us to a new world of manufacturing, with considerably higher productivity and less cost.