Now we see Nokia is issuing standards so people can print their own covers using 3D printers. This has massive implications. First, a lot less product will need to be shipped. Yes, I know these are small but soon it will be bigger and bigger product. "Designed in California" will be printed and the item will be made on the spot and on demand. Transportation demand will decrease dramatically.
Second, it truly will mean "mass customization". Mass customization has been a dream for a long time where people have predicted the benefits of large scale batch production coming to products which are made for a consumer of one. In effect, this will be what 3D printing does.
Finally, it will put a lot of manufacturers out of business in total. I essentially will make the product myself and will have no need of a "conversion" partner - i.e., the manufacturer.
The big winner in all this could be FEDEX and their acquisition of Kinkos many years ago could be a fantastic application for this. Imagine the following the next time I want a case for my iPhone:
- I download plans for the case I want. I customize logos, words etc. on the case. Perhaps I pay $1.99 for the plans for "one time use" and I get them right off the Apple store.
- Once completed I send them to FEDEX (like I do a document today) who routes it to the local FEDEX store (formerly Kinkos).
- The local FEDEX store "prints" the case for $5.00.
- I choose at this point whether to have FEDEX deliver it to my house through their "final mile" network or I pick it up.
Voila! No (or very limited raw material) inventory; customization for me specifically, made locally and ready to pick up in 1 hour. Soon, just like we are used to "1 hour photographs" at Walgreens, we will have "1 hour manufacturing" and FEDEX may be in the best spot for this.
(Note: I have never seen anything saying FEDEX is planning this but I just think it makes sense. In this very in depth and good article from 2011 entitled "3D Printing: The Future is Here" the author says "imagine a time when 3D manufacturers are as common as Kinkos offices completely ignoring the idea that for a lot of items Kinkos / Fedex office could be the manufacturer. ).