Can you imagine what it was like when the Wright brothers opened our eyes to the realization that flight was possible? New industries formed from nowhere. Did these two brothers ever envision supersonic flights, high Gs, or space flight? What started as a short flight on a beach spawned billion-dollar industries that were never dreamed of.
We can now see the leading edge of another game-changing technology: direct digital manufacturing (DDM). Today many industries have adopted Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) for finished parts, tooling and many other applications. This technology helps produce parts more quickly and at lower cost. Low-volume manufacturing is opening the door for customization. Methods once useful mainly for 3D rapid prototyping have led to a world of possibilities in DDM.
Today, FDM parts swim the depths of the oceans and fly faster than the speed of sound. To say the sky is the limit may be underestimating it. With the fast-evolving world of additive manufacturing, I believe there is a product that has not been dreamed of yet due to our limitation on trying to figure out how we would manufacture it. Our imaginations have yet to catch up with technology. As Harry Chapin once wrote in a song: "If you only dream when you are asleep, there is no way for it to come true."
What do you think the world of manufacturing will look like in five, 10, 20 or even 50 years from now? I see FDM machines manufacturing in zero gravity.