If any company should know a little something about making way for disruptive technology, it’s IBM. So, it’s only fitting that Paul Brody, global industry leader for electronics at IBM, recently remarked that 3D printing, open source electronics, and intelligent robotics, are having a disruptive impact on the manufacturing industry. With 3D printing “achieving levels of performance required to be production-ready,” he admitted what we already know: that costs are already competitive, and that the open source aspect poises the industry for even more explosive growth.
His advice? “Accept their help, or see them build your competition on Kickstarter.” As IBM’s own rise to power showed, the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach is very often wise.
Yet, the 3D printing industry’s most important players aren’t limited to entrepreneurship hopefuls who make up the Kickstarter crowd. Consider Hugh Lyman, the 83-year-old retiree who developed a method for converting ABS plastic pellets into filament at a fraction of market cost. Perhaps more remarkable than the invention itself is Lyman’s last word on his own invention: “This is an open source project free to the world.” With so many players without the inclination to capitalize their innovations, those with commercial interests must truly learn (perhaps even define) how to navigate the space.