3D Printing in Electronics - A Perspective

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"A cynic," according to Irish playwright and humorist Oscar Wilde, “is a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” Anyone who has spent any time dealing with purchasing agents could easily find a way to apply that same definition to those poor souls whose job it is to get the best price (i.e., lowest cost) on everything they purchase for their companies. The problem is that they are not required to make value judgments about the things they purchase; they just need to get those items in the door within budget and on time. This is a tragedy of sorts because if they possessed a better understanding of the nature of the products they purchase, those individuals could well be making informed decisions that could more positively impact the bottom line of their companies.

Knowing the value of a product or technology is a key element in making the right decision. Appreciating the value proposition of an element of business is ever more important as the rate of change that surrounds an industry continues to accelerate. This brings us to one of the current buzz subjects in our industry: 3D printing.

Understanding what 3D printing is and what its value is to a company and that company’s ability to hold or improve its place in the industry is vital.

First, a question to ponder: What is the most valuable factor in business and life? The customary response is often money or capital. Money is, after all, the lifeblood of industry and key to a life free from want. Without capital investment there is no business and without money on an individual scale one might find themselves out on the streets. On the bright side, capital/money can often be raised if there is a believable opportunity to recoup its investment and ideally some amount of profit and an investor who shares that belief. There are also social safety nets which exist (even if imperfect) to help out the unfortunate individual lacking funds.

No, money is not the most important factor in business and life; that spot is reserved for time and its close kin, timing. Time and timing are arguably the most important factors. Businesses and individuals alike enter the world with a finite life ahead of them. Time may be infinite but we are not and neither are businesses. The list of highly successful companies that have come and gone is very long. Knowing this, the value of time should be patently obvious. This is where 3D printing appears to have a vital role to play in the world of businesses which manufacture hard products. 3D printing allows the manufacturer to make mistakes at a prodigious rate enabling much faster cycles of learning than have ever been available to the willing student.

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Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the January 2015 issue of SMT Magazine.


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