Designers need to give consideration to how they design a product by thinking about what quantity it is produced in and the method of production, as well as the impact of these.
Companies will produce products on a number of different scales described as one-off, batch or mass production.
|One-off - bespoke and handcrafted items, eg a handcrafted chair||Higher quality item||Takes longer to make and is higher in price, requires highly skilled worker|
|Batch - produced in limited quantities, eg a limited edition car||Uses repetition to reduce costs, made by moderately skilled workers, can be desirable for consumers as they are limited||Can still be reasonably high in price, if an error is made it affects the whole batch|
|Mass - produced in vast quantities, eg mobile phones||Products are made very quickly, lower skilled level of worker needed||High cost to set up machinery, if an error is made production has to be stopped|
A disruptive technology is one that displaces an existing technology and creates a new area of industry. Examples of disruptive technologies in the past have been the Personal Computer (PC) displacing the typewriter, or smartphones displacing older cell phones and personal digital assistants (PDA).
3D printing is an additive manufacturing technology. This printing process works by reading a 3D computer aided design (CAD) file created on a computer, which is ‘broken’ into many small layers - each around 0.3 mm in height. The 3D printer prints each thin layer by extruding heated plastic, which cools quickly. It starts printing at the bottom and works its way up, printing the top layer last.
3D printers can be used in the development of new products, increasing prototyping times. 3D printers can be used to manufacture ceramic cups, metal machine parts, toy models and can even be used to make bespoke pancakes. Developments are currently being made to see if this process can be used to replicate body parts.
|Advantages of 3D printing||Disadvantages of 3D printing|
|Runs straight from a computer file and produces an exact copy of the drawing||Production times can be slow|
|Costs of machines are low||Errors can occur in instances where the design is very intricate or is poorly supported due to a top-heavy design|
As it is still early in its development, it is not yet clear which technologies will be displaced long-term, but 3D printing is now being used in prototyping and as an alternative to other computer aided design (CAD) and computer aided manufacture (CAM) methods, such as computer numerical controlled (CNC) milling.
The use of robots is one part of automation in mass manufacture. Robotics use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to collect information and improve the performance of a particular procedure. Robotics has proven popular because of their ability to increase efficiency and handle harmful materials that humans can't, but they are very expensive to install. The result of installing robotics in production factories is that many manually skilled workers’ jobs have been displaced, although it has created employment opportunities for those skilled at programming and monitoring the robots that have been installed. Robotics has become more common as more complex tasks can be repeated, whilst long-term costs of manufacture can be reduced.