The manufacturing landscape has changed massively in the past sixty years, evolving from hand crafted products to becoming one of the heavyweights of mass manufacturing nations churning out a large percentage of the products in the world today, from children's toys to high tech devices. Many of those high tech devices are manufactured by Foxconn using advanced technologies but according to Foxconn chief 3D printing is just a gimmick.
“3D printing is a gimmick,” Gou said. “If it really is that good, then I’ll write my surname ‘Gou’ backwards [from now on].”
Gou (or Oug as he will soon be known) goes on to state that the inability to 3D print multi materials and leather(?) is what he sees as a barrier to the mass adoption of 3D printing for manufacturing. While that may be the case for industrial 3D printers now, research is currently being undertaken to make both multi material, (and leather) 3D printing a reality in the near future. Foxconn have been using 3D printing for the past 30 years though it was not stated in what capacity.
At the same time The Asian Manufacturing Association in mainland China announced its plans in May to invest 200 million yuan in building 3D printing manufacturing centres across the country and the Dalian University has built the world's largest laser 3D printer while Panasonic are already using 3D printing as part of the process to manufacture consumer items such as their 3D TV (I know) and also plan to continue to use 3D printing in consumer products to shorten the manufacturing lead time while reducing the need stock of semi-finished products.
This on demand manufacturing, reducing the need for inventory and giving the ability to quickly iterate and improve a product is a massive advantage that Mr. Gou/Oug will soon adopt, or see his competitors in China and the rest of the world pass him by. Multi-material 3D printing is a technical barrier that will be overcome, and perhaps surpassed with processes far more advanced such as self assembling materials that will make current mass manufacturing techniques look like Neolithic masonry.
I think affordable 3D printing is so new that what's happening, currently, hasn't even BEGUN to scratch the surface of the possible applications. It's still shifting from "awesome toy gear" to "how can I use it to make money gear". One day, one geek will have one idea and think "If only I could __" (fill in the blank) at which point he/she will remember that "toy" 3D printer in the basement, under that box of old cables - and he/she will make history.
Personally, I'm hoping that geek is a mathematician!
Well said Duann - I've had too many conversations with people like Gou who seem to have forgotten that there is still so much room for development and innovation within the realm of additive manufacturing. It's so far from a finished process and I can not wait to see where it brings us in the next decade or two. Go 3D Printing!