Harvard professor Clayton M. Christensen coined the phrase disruptive innovation to describe technology that is so revolutionary that it will create a unique market. Cellphones, computers, and the Internet all fall into the category of disruptive technologies. So did the automobile a century ago and television in the early 1950s. The manufacturing industry is fertile ground for the future of disruptive innovations. More than tweaks to an established system, these advances will create an entirely new market in manufacturing.
According to o-ring and gasket manufacturer Apple Rubber, customization is the goal for any manufacturing process. In this industry, procedures are constantly being tweaked and redefined to the customer’s unique needs. The easier it is to customize something to an individual consumer’s needs, the greater accessibility people have to manufacturing processes. Additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing, is the disruptive result of full customization. Without the need for large, expensive production equipment, an idea engineer can develop a product with a tablet and a 3-D printer. This opens up a new market to people with great concepts but little start-up money. Now 3-D printers are so economical that parents can purchase them for a child’s use, giving birth to the manufacturing of youthful, creative dreams.
Between the worlds of science and metaphysics, there has been a common ground when it came to plants and herbs. The witch’s use of deadly nightshade later became an FDA approved manufacturing of Donnatal for stomach issues. Molecular farming, sometimes written as pharming to pay homage to its pharmaceutical roots, is the process of extracting recombinant pharmaceutical proteins from biogenetically engineered plants. Using this manufacturing technique, large quantities of pharmaceutical drugs can be harvested where once small amounts would be created in laboratories. If this works well in the pharmaceutical industry, similar technology can be used in the textile industry, engineering spiders and worms to create super-strong fabrics in bulk.
Freeze Casting and Nanomaterials
Material science is one of the places where disruptive manufacturing comes in the form of scientific breakthrough. Freeze casting, sustainable supercool materials and nanotube composites may each bring about new markets that previously only lived in the minds of science fiction writers. These new materials will allow for the manufacturing of new devices that were limited by the weight and strength of the material.
The software associated with manufacturing can be expensive, pricing out smaller manufacturers and idea engineers. Cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) platforms are opening up the market by making the tools available to more and more people. Combined with the accessibility to 3-D printing, SaaS systems let a user with an idea play on the same field as the large manufacturing companies. Since the software is shared via a cloud service, it is not restricted by geography. As long as a person has an idea and Internet connection, the manufacturing process is there at his fingertips.
If two heads are better than one, then a million heads are bound to do something amazing. That is the idea behind social manufacturing. Bringing together many of the newest manufacturing technologies, social manufacturing lets many people come together to use shared open-forum software that is cloud-based to work on one project. Potentially the most disruptive innovation, social manufacturing is the future of global development across all industries.