September 03, 2003

Custom Parts on Demand

Winds of Change has an article about the US Army's new Mobile Parts Hospital (MPH). While a very useful thing for the military, this will also have civilian implications. Imagine being able to bring in a part for a tool that is no longer manufactured and simply scan it and fabricate it at your local Home Depot. All of a sudden, as I wrote in July, planned obsolescence is dead.

This is moving from the realm of limited material capable items possible to assemble from COTS technology components (3D printers and scanners) to an actual integrated system that can handle a wide variety of components in many materials. Once that military system is viewed by many eyes, visionaries will take it and bring it to the civilian sphere.

The on-site production of parts will have wide implications for many fields. Lots of business models will have to be rewritten. Commercial concerns will take on some of the characteristics of industrial concerns (and how is that going to get zoned?). Mass customization is going to give way to true customization as one offs become cheap enough for the masses to afford. All in all, this is big news everywhere.

Posted by TMLutas at September 3, 2003 01:51 PM