The new industrial revolution promises a paradigm shift that can help small manufacturers. This opportunity to the small fabricator, "will be made possible by what is being called the digital fabrication.
Digital manufacturing for many types of products, is an alternative to the challenges of mass production that replaces with new manufacturing methods that can make the small manufacturer competitive again.
You've probably heard about the digital fabrication because of the 3D printers. It is true that they are the star of digital fabrication and certainly we all love the magic that is to create objects in front of our eyes.
If you notice all motivation around the 3D printing, notice also the power of the digital world, immersed in manufacturing from design, computerized manufacturing prototyping can bring.
The digital model created in software CAD (computer aided Design) becomes a virtual object, laptop, Web and collaborative object that we wish to manufacture.
Can be developed through prototyping in various quantities, different places and different materials. In the end, can be refined until final instructions.
The following video shows an example of what you can build with the 3D printers available on the market. Whether for educational purposes or for development projects, it is possible to shorten the cycles between design and testing, speeding up the development time.
Each step takes advantage of the continuous flow between the model from one side of the process until the manufacturing digital control on the other.
3D Printing is Not Everything 3D printers are just one of the technologies of digital fabrication created this flow of design to production. There are "subtrative" technologies such as CNC machining, oxyfuel, plasma cutting, laser or water jet and also robotic mount.
Although CNC machining and 2D cutting is a well known process, there is still a lot of room for innovation and improvements. For example, the software as a service business model is allowing great software products to be available to the small manufacturer.
Take our nesting software for example, where you can subscribe for the time you need. There is no need for huge licensing investments.
The way to get a continuous stream of design until production is made possible by connecting a set of digital processes of production, which is based on digital manufacturing equipment.
Regardless of the equipment used for manufacturing the controls interact in a similar manner. All depend on mechanical components, embedded micro controllers and electronics.
All these technologies are very common is the dedicated machine for additives or subtractive, big or small. After all, these machines are basically robots that move a tool that cuts, deposit or hardens various materials.
Using the electronic and mechanical parts of these machines are software platforms that are growing and becoming universal.
The result of all this digital technology is the production with high accuracy, high complexity, high fidelity, high quality and repeatability.
The most important result of all this is:
"on digital fabrication, complexity and precision are in the package, available with little or no additional cost."
Seems simple. But the effect is powerful. On digital fabrication, cut a sheet in the shape of a complex curve or a straight is the same thing. Namely, that the ability to produce details, that formerly relied on machines and tools inaccessible, now comes for free.
Opportunity in Digital Fabrication Digital manufacturing can encourage small manufacturers to quickly assimilate new production options and the use in your benefit.
"Now, you don't have to do things in large volumes to make such economies of scale, and allowing this is that we now have software that bring knowledge. And the other thing is that nowadays the fabrication is all done with the help of the computer. The times is not in the form of a robot but in a 3D printer or a machine to machine or laser cutting. All this actually is made possible by the microprocessor. What this new industrial revolution is bringing is that we can manufacture high-quality products, in small quantities at a fair price. This is innovative and this is where there is a great opportunity for new business."
The small factories can now be very dynamic. The connection between design and manufacturing can be shortened, where the cycle happens where something is manufactured feeds improvements in design, feeding again improvements in manufacturing and that by your time improves again the project and so on.
This intimate connection can be the key to innovation. Digital manufacturing is at the center of it all as a technological pillar, giving advantages to the manufacturing start quickly.
The message behind all this broad enthusiasm around the 3D printers is that these digital fabrication technologies are available and affordable today. The last technologies used only in top-of-the-line machine in high volumes of production were a lot of guys.
But now, with the use of conventional computers and increasing your processing power of micro controllers, they can be used in industrial production. As technology has become accessible and friendly, has become very configurable and extensible so that individual pieces and small batches can be made at competitive costs.
So much for the additive or subtractive manufacture, the advances in digital technologies and computers together with adoption growing and price reductions, allows you to increase the presence of digital manufacturing equipment in small businesses. Software and training for the digital factories are becoming more affordable, available on the internet to those who don't have a degree in technology or engineering.
These possibilities that open on new (or next, or third, or fourth) industrial revolution based on the accessibility of new technologies has been described as a possible revival of the small manufacturers of machinery, metal, furniture and fittings and other that assist in various production chains.
Other types of small businesses, with operations from design to production, with half a dozen employees are reappearing to complete production chains. These companies are leveraging rapid prototyping technologies, manufacturing of unique pieces and small batches.
At least for the manufacture of some products, digital manufacturing promises to make competitive small manufacturers that has resisted bravely. With the digital fabrication, no additional cost which rose to produce something of greater complexity. So, the small manufacturers they have advantages because it has energy and are agile to respond to the changes.
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