By Art Reisman
In case you haven’t heard, Jeff Bezos, of Amazon Fame is tossing around idea of using 3D printers to provide unlimited inventory in all of their local warehouses. I suspect this is more of a proclamation for publicity rather than a near term reality? A 3D printer is just a catchy name for a new way to do injection molding. It involves a process that lays down material in slices, one on top of each other under the guidance of a computer, until the slices stack up into the finished part. I don’t doubt this process will obsolete 100+ year old injection molding techniques, but beyond economizing the parts business, I just don’t see a mesh of generic warehouses able to deliver products on demand through 3D printing. For example, if I dropped all the parts needed to build a Harley Davidson at the local hardware store for final assembly, would you want to buy the finished product ? Modern manufacturing takes advantage of extreme agile and automated assembly line techniques to build anything. Sourcing parts on demand with a local, one-off assembly would greatly inflate consumer costs for anything more complex than a paperweight.
As for my question about the replacement cost for the printer cartridge, I am more worried about the next-generation paper jam, hot liquid plastic spewing out all over my desk.