3D printing is the first tile to set off an innovation domino effect. Beyond immediate disruptions to manufacturing, 3D printing leads to innovation that downplays craftsmanship and emphasizes design. Take padlocks. When MIT students released a program to 3D print counterfeit keys to high-security locks, the executives at Schlage probably didn’t think of it as innovation. Lock pickers everywhere did, but 3D printing keys is not the final domino.
“Craftsmanship has been democratized” is a recent quote from 3D Systems CEO, Avi Reichental. The security of mechanical locks relies entirely on craftsmanship, requiring precise, multi-step subtractive manufacturing skills. No wonder the advent of 3D printing makes these locks obsolete – complex geometry is now free and easy.
For our frustrated Schlage executives, this event is about innovation, though they may not be ready to admit it. While the mechanical lock may go away, the need for security will not. This disruption will drive further innovation to provide security with better products. And apparently that next domino is already under development: the electronic cryptographic lock favored by the students.
Padlocks are just one example. Any industry that relies on craftsmanship will be transformed by 3D printing; it has ushered the fashion, jewelry, and furniture industries into an era of unprecedented change in manufacturing, tempered by inspired ingenuity. What innovation will move your product beyond craftsmanship?